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Friday, July 19, 2024

French PM in final appeal to stop far-right victory

France’s lightning-quick election campaign is over, and despite last-ditch appeals not to back the far right, voters appear ready to hand the National Rally party a historic victory in parliamentary elections.

Prime Minister Gabriel Attal warned it would unleash “impulses of hate and aggression”.

But the party of Marine Le Pen and 28-year old Jordan Bardella, who could be the next prime minister, has if anything cemented its lead in the opinion polls.

National Rally has fended off a series of accusations of racism, involving party members as much as supporters. The big question now is whether it can win an absolute majority in two rounds over the next two Sundays.

They have a significant chance, after European elections on 9 June turned most of the electoral map of France dark blue. That was the moment Emmanuel Macron chose to stun the French people with a decision to call a general election in just three weeks.

National Rally (RN) is gearing up for a big night on Sunday, with one opinion poll hours before the campaign ended showing support at 36.5%.

Its candidates are hoping to win dozens of seats in the National Assembly outright on the night, with more than 50% of the vote. But most seats will be decided in run-off votes on 7 July, between two, three or even four contenders.

So opinion polls do not tell the whole story, and a hastily arranged left-wing alliance, the New Popular Front, also has its eye on victory, only a few points behind RN with 29%.

The Ensemble alliance, led by Gabriel Attal, lies in third on 20.5%, according to the Ifop poll. He argues both the other main blocs are extreme.

No area of mainland France backed National Rally in the European vote more than L’Aisne, a rural department in the north with just over 50% support.

Since 2022, L’Aisne has already had three RN MPs, and in the historic town of Villers-Cotterêts, they have had a National Rally mayor, Franck Briffaut, for a decade.

A party veteran of more than 40 years, going back to its old National Front days under Jean-Marie Le Pen, he feels the path to power has been inevitable, in the same way that Giorgia Meloni won elections in Italy.

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