French parties reject Macron’s offer for alliance against far right

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France’s mainstream parties have rejected an offer by President Emmanuel Macron to form an alliance ahead of snap elections in a bid to halt the rise of Marine Le Pen’s far right.

Macron made the shock move to dissolve the National Assembly on Sunday night after his centrist alliance suffered a bruising defeat in European parliament elections by Le Pen’s Rassemblement National. He justified the high-stakes gamble as necessary for voters to set a clear direction for the country and end the parliamentary gridlock in place since his centrist alliance lost its majority in 2022.

With little time before the first round of voting on June 30, Macron made his public pitch to centre-left parties such as the Socialists and the Greens, as well as the centre-right Les Republicains on Sunday night. But his potential allies have so far rejected his offer.

LR leader Éric Ciotti said it was “out of the question to enter into a coalition with those who have so damaged France”. The long-fragmented factions on the left said they would seek to put together joint lists, but said no to working with Macron’s Renaissance party.

The snap legislative elections could be a turning point for Macron’s presidency, which has three years to run, and for the future direction of French democracy. It is the first time in almost 30 years that a president has cut short the assembly’s term — a decision that unsettled markets on Monday.

“This will be the most consequential parliamentary election for France and for the French in the history of the Fifth Republic,” said finance minister Bruno Le Maire on RTL radio on Monday morning.

Stéphane Séjourné, the foreign minister who also heads the Renaissance party, said on France Inter radio that he hoped to “hold discussions with all reasonable people with whom we can work and accord nominations to those who can sign up to our project”.

Fresh off a strong showing in the European parliament vote, Socialist party secretary Olivier Faure called for the left to unite to “create a popular front against the far right”, but rejected any agreement with Macron’s party. He said it was “totally illusory” to think that the left would sign up to Macron’s programme.

The only party that has little need for alliances is Le Pen’s RN, although one of its senior lawmakers, Sébastien Chenu, said politicians from other parties could join their electoral list if they “shared the platform of proposals that we will put forward”.

If the RN wins an absolute majority of seats in the National Assembly, it could be in power in the prime minister’s office in Matignon in a few weeks’ time and running France’s domestic affairs. Such a scenario would be unprecedented: the far right has never been in power in France save for in the Vichy era after a military loss to Germany.

Voters could also deliver another hung parliament, making it hard for any prime minister to run the country. Few analysts expect that Macron’s centrist alliance could win its own majority outright.

Asked about the electoral manoeuvring under way, Le Maire cautioned against betting on “petty partisan” arrangements to counter the RN. “This is not how we will respond to the worries, fears, and anger of the French” which are driving them to vote for the far right, he added.

The two-round format of elections to choose the 577 members of the National Assembly makes the outcome particularly hard to predict. Voters can also send three candidates into the second round, which opens up the possibility of tactical withdrawals.

“There is a total confusion right now both for politicians in all these parties and the voters themselves,” said Mathieu Gallard, a pollster and political analyst at Ipsos.

“It’s impossible to predict what the results will be but given the RN’s high scores you cannot entirely dismiss the scenario they win an absolute majority. Then Macron’s gambit will have totally backfired on him.”

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