French President Macron urges moderate politicians to regroup to defeat the far right in elections

French President Emmanuel Macron has called for moderate politicians from the left and the right to regroup to defeat the far-right in upcoming legislative elections

Published - June 12, 2024 09:55 pm IST - PARIS

French President Emmanuel Macron speaks during a press conference about the priorities of his Renaissance party and its allies ahead of the early legislative elections in Paris, France, on June 12, 2024.

French President Emmanuel Macron speaks during a press conference about the priorities of his Renaissance party and its allies ahead of the early legislative elections in Paris, France, on June 12, 2024. | Photo Credit: Reuters

French President Emmanuel Macron urged on Wednesday moderate politicians from the left and the right to regroup to defeat the far right in the upcoming national legislative elections he had called for after his party's crushing defeat in the European parliamentary vote.

A somber-looking Mr. Macron addressed French voters for the first time since his stunning decision on Sunday to dissolve the National Assembly, France’s lower house of parliament.

His move triggered an early legislative election that will take place in two rounds on June 30 and July 7, three weeks after the far-right National Rally party of Marine Le Pen triumphed at the election for the European Union Parliament.

During a press conference on Wednesday, Mr. Macron said he decided on the risky move because he could not ignore the new political reality after his pro-European party was handed a chastening defeat and garnered less than half the support of the National Rally with its star leader, Jordan Bardella.

Unlike in his recent national addresses in which Mr. Macron focused on Russia’s war in Ukraine and ways Europe should forge a common defence policy, independent of the U.S., and shore up trade protections against China, the French President stuck to his country’s internal issues favored by the surging right, including curbing immigration, fighting crime and Islamic separatism in France.

Mr. Macron, who has three years left of his second presidential term, hopes voters will band together to contain the far right in national elections in a way they did not in European ones. He called on “men and women of goodwill who were able to say ‘no’ to extremes to join together to be able to build a joint project” for the country.

“Things are simple today: we have unnatural alliances at both extremes, who quite agree on nothing except the jobs to be shared, and who will not be able to implement any program," Mr. Macron said during an opening address at a press conference in Paris.

As for his own centrist alliance, Mr. Macron said: “We are not perfect, we have not done everything right, but we have results... and above all, we know how to act.”

The decision to send to the polls voters who just expressed their discontent with Mr. Macron’s politics was a risky move that could result in the French far-right leading a government for the first time since World War II.

Potential alliances and France’s two-round voting system in national elections make the outcome of the vote highly uncertain. Mr. Macron was adamant in his faith in the French voters' intent to refuse to choose the extremes of both sides of the political spectrum. He assured that he is not failing into defeatism and said he will serve out his second presidential term regardless of the outcome of the legislative vote.

“I think the French are intelligent, they see what’s being done, what’s coherent and what’s not, and they know what to do," Mr. Macron said. He added: "I don’t believe at all that the worst can happen. You see, I’m an indefatigable optimist.”

He rebuffed accusations that his move to call snap elections would help the far-right take power in France.

“It’s about allowing political forces chosen by the French to be able to govern,” he said, He added that it’s “awkward to think it has to be the extreme right or political extremes. Or maybe you’ve got the spirit of defeat spread everywhere.”

“If that’s what people are afraid of, it’s time now to take action,” he said.

Opposition parties on the left and right have been scrambling to form alliances and field candidates in the early legislative balloting.

While sharp differences between parties remain on either side of the political spectrum, prominent figures calling for a united front appear to have one thing in common: They don’t want to cooperate with Mr. Macron.

Despite their divisions, left-wing parties agreed late on Monday to form an alliance that includes the Greens, the Socialists, the Communists and the far-left France Unbowed of Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

National Rally leader Marine Le Pen is working to consolidate power on the right in efforts to translate the European triumph into a national win and come closer to claiming power. The far-right party, with a history of racism and xenophobia, is expected to win the most French seats in the European Parliament, potentially as many as 30 of France’s 81.

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