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Macron told ‘people detest you’ as far-right bids to be biggest party in France

June 29, 2024

 

 

Centrists are fighting for their survival in Sunday’s poll, amid fears the president’s snap election has unleashed chaos.

 

Emmanuel Macron’s centrist grouping was fighting for survival this weekend before the first round of France’s high-stakes snap election, which could see the far-right National Rally (RN) become the biggest force in parliament.

Macron, who warned last week that France risked “civil war” if Marine Le Pen’s anti-immigration RN, or the leftwing New Popular Front coalition, came to power, said at the European summit in Brussels that “uninhibited racism and antisemitism” had been unleashed in France.

 

But his strategy of stoking a climate of fear, in which his centrists are presented as the only rational force to hold back the breakdown of French society, is seen as backfiring.

Antoine Bristielle, the director of opinion at the Fondation Jean-Jaurès thinktank, said that since Macron called the election, France’s political future was extremely difficult to read. “Macron is more and more unpredictable,” he said. “It’s as if he’s running the country like he’s in a Netflix series – and has to put a cliffhanger at the end of each episode.”

Macron called the parliamentary poll after his centrist party was trounced by the far-right RN in the European election, saying it would “clarify” the political landscape. But even figures close to the president acknowledge that many of his own voters are uneasy over the resulting political turmoil and feel Macron himself has created chaos.

The exact results of the two-round election, with a high turnout expected in the first round on Sunday, are complex to predict. But the RN is riding on a wave of support. Polls show the party taking the greatest share of seats, followed by the left alliance, ahead of Macron’s centrists.

Political analysts say France is entering uncharted waters. If Le Pen’s party manages to go from its current 88 seats to an absolute majority of 289, it would form a far-right government and Macron would have to share power. Equally, the RN could win the largest number of seats but fall short of an absolute majority. Macron could then find himself with a hung parliament unable to produce a stable majority to govern the European Union’s second economy and its top military power.

 

Christelle Craplet, director of opinion at BVA pollsters, said that “the dynamique for the RN is strong”. She described a polarised mood in France. “Many of Macron’s core electorate are wondering why he dissolved parliament and called this election,” she said.

“There is incomprehension and anxiety, particularly among older voters who make up the core of Macron’s electorate. But equally, RN voters feel a sense of hope and satisfaction at this election. RN voters want change. Polling shows it’s not just passing anger or disgust at politics, they adhere to the party’s positions, saying they want to see things change in France, that they’re let down by political parties and feel why not try the RN.”

 

She said: “On the left, voters are also expressing a great deal of worry, because the left in France has historically constructed itself in opposition to the RN.”

Macron’s lack of popularity is at the centre of the election race. Centrist candidates for his Renaissance party have deliberately published posters without his name or face. “People detest you,” the former Renaissance MP Patrick Vignal was reported by Le Monde to have told Macron, summing up the mood on the ground. Most centrists wanted Macron to keep a low-profile during the campaign, to avoid the sense of a referendum against the president, but he has continued to give interviews and make public comments almost daily.

 

Macron was first elected in 2017 on a vow to defend progressive ideals and revolutionise the workings of French politics. Many voters he won from the centre-left have felt increasingly alienated during his second term, after he forced through of a rise in the pension age, as well as a hardline immigration law. Macron’s promise, in a recent letter to the French people, to govern differently, has not been taken seriously by voters.

 

Bristielle said that a feeling of rejection of Macron had been building over time and this was seen in his one-time voters from the centre-left. “That feeling is very linked to his personality and his way of doing politics, particularly [in] his second term. It is about pension changes, immigration law, but also what is seen to be a lack of willing on environmental issues and even on feminism, such as his support for Gérard Depardieu.” Macron faced anger from feminists and the left last year when he described the actor Dépardieu – who is under formal investigation for rape and was at the time facing fresh scrutiny for sexist comments – as the target of a “manhunt”.

The political scientist Jérôme Jaffré told Le Figaro last week there was a “visceral hostility” towards Macron among working-class voters. The president had hoped that the lightning three-week campaign would help him recover the support he lost in the European elections; instead, polls suggest it has fallen further.

Whether the left alliance can now make solid gains in parliament will depend on the results of the runoffs on 7 July.

 

 

Curled from The Guardian

 

 

 

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