French parliamentary election campaign starts with President Macron facing struggle

With less than a fortnight before the vote, a new poll underlined fears that Macron's alliance risks being squeezed by new coalitions on the left and right.
French President Emmanuel Macron takes part in a working session during the G7 Summit in Borgo Egnazia, southern Italy, Thursday, June 13, 2024.
French President Emmanuel Macron takes part in a working session during the G7 Summit in Borgo Egnazia, southern Italy, Thursday, June 13, 2024.Photo | AP

PARIS: France began a frantically short election campaign Monday, with President Emmanuel Macron's centrist alliance facing an uphill struggle to avoid a new defeat at the hands of the far right.

Macron called the snap parliamentary elections three years early in a dramatic gamble to shake up politics in France after the far right trounced his centrists in EU elections.

But with less than a fortnight before the vote, a new poll underlined fears his alliance risks being squeezed by new coalitions on the left and right.

According to the Ifop poll for the LCI TV channel, the far-right National Rally (RN) would take 33 percent of the vote, the New Popular Front left-wing alliance 28 percent and Macron's ruling centrists just 18 percent.

Many in France remain baffled over why Macron called an election just weeks before the country hosts the Olympics, risking the RN leading the government and 28-year-old Jordan Bardella becoming prime minister.

"Emmanuel Macron, who triggered this dissolution to trap the parties, has ended up trapping himself," said Le Monde daily, warning that the RN risked winning the election.

Candidates had until Sunday evening to register for the 577 seats in the lower house National Assembly ahead of the official start of campaigning from midnight. The first round of voting takes place on June 30, with the decisive second round coming seven days later.

'Exemplary' Mbappe

The political tremors have reached the Euro 2024 football tournament in Germany, where France's star player Kylian Mbappe said he was "against extremes and divisive ideas" and urged young people to vote at a "crucial moment" in French history.

"I hope I will still be proud to wear this shirt after July 7," he said.

While some on the right rounded on Mbappe for wading into the controversy, Sports Minister Amelie Oudea-Castera lauded his comments as "exemplary."

Macron's dissolving of parliament after the French far right's victory in the EU vote has undoubtedly redrawn the lines of French politics.

"The aim is to create a new parliamentary majority," former prime minister Edouard Philippe, who leads a party allied to Macron's bloc, told BFMTV.

But perhaps to Macron's surprise, a new left-wing alliance—the New Popular Front that takes in Socialists, Greens and hard-leftist France Unbowed (LFI)—has emerged.

On the right, Eric Ciotti, the leader of the Republicans (LR), has agreed an election pact with the RN, provoking fury inside the party and a move by its leadership to dismiss him, which a Paris court blocked on Friday.

The Nice prosecutor's office said it had opened an investigation at the end of May for "misappropriation of public funds" after a complaint against several people, including Ciotti, who denounced this as "obvious political manipulation."

In a further twist, the new left-wing alliance has already shown signs of cracking, with the LFI's raucous figurehead, Jean-Luc Melenchon, being too divisive a figure for some to contend for prime minister.

Prime Minister Gabriel Attal, who is leading the campaign for Macron's bloc, said voters had three choices.

"There's the alliance led by (hard-left) LFI, there's the alliance led by the (far-right) RN—extremes that would be a disaster for the country," he told the RFL broadcaster.

And "there's a third bloc... that we are leading."

'Plunge into chaos'

Macron is this week due to return to the domestic campaign fray from engagements abroad at the G7 summit in Italy and the Ukraine peace conference in Switzerland.

The personal stakes are huge for the president, who risks becoming a lame duck until his term expires in 2027. He then faces handing over power to the RN's Marine Le Pen, who is likely to run for the Elysee for a fourth time.

Former Socialist prime minister Lionel Jospin, who famously bowed out of politics in 2002 after Jean-Marie Le Pen, Marine's father, knocked him out of the presidential election run-off, warned of the perils for Macron.

He told Le Monde the president had forced the country into a "hurried" campaign and was "giving the RN a chance to come to power in France."

In an interview with the Journal du Dimanche newspaper, former president Nicolas Sarkozy also warned that Macron was taking a risk for himself and the country, saying the move "could plunge France into chaos from which it will have the greatest difficulty in emerging."

Related Stories

No stories found.

X
The New Indian Express
www.newindianexpress.com