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French snap election campaign starts 

2024-06-18  Correspondent

French snap election campaign starts 

PARIS - France began a frantically-short election campaign yesterday, 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 polls 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, his alliance risks being squeezed by new coalitions on the left and right.

Many in France remain baffled over why Macron called an election just weeks before the country hosts the Olympics, risking the far-right National Rally (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 places on 30 June, with the decisive second round coming seven days later.

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.

“Today, we can all see that extremists are very close to winning power, and we have the opportunity to choose the future of our country,” Mbappe said.

“I hope I will still be proud to wear this shirt after 7 July.”

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

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.

In a further twist, the new left-wing alliance has already shown signs of cracking, with the LFI’s raucous figurehead Jean-Luc Melenchon 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”.

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. 

- Nampa/AFP

2024-06-18  Correspondent

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