Macron’s centrist alliance faces wipeout in snap elections

Emmanuel Macron's coup de poker could fail spectacularly
Emmanuel Macron's coup de poker could fail spectacularly - STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN/AFP

Emmanuel Macron’s centrist alliance faces wipeout in snap parliamentary elections as France’s Left-wing parties solidified a unity pact that could further hamper the French president’s chances.

New projections suggested only about 40 pro-Macron MPs would reach the second round vote on July 7, in run-offs mainly between populist hard-Right or Left-wing candidates for the 577-strong assembly, according to two studies for Le Figaro and BFM TV.

The findings suggest Mr Macron’s coup de poker to dissolve parliament and hold early elections to halt the rise of Marine Le Pen’s National Rally (RN) could end in electoral meltdown and see him a lame duck for the remaining three years of his presidency starting next month.

Mr Macron’s camp hopes to flush out the extremes and cobble together a new democratic front of moderate parties once the dust has settled. The odds against this scenario look exceedingly high with little more than two weeks to go before round one on June 30.

But by extrapolating results from last week’s European parliamentary election to the upcoming first round in the French legislative poll, RN would come first in 362 seats and the Left would come top in 211, according to Le Figaro’s calculations.

Some analysts warned against basing predictions on European parliament elections, which have just one round and see MEPs win seats according to proportional representation. Turnout is traditionally lower than in legislative elections and the ballot is often treated as a mid-term protest vote.

Even so, the poll will further worry the Macron camp, many of whom were appalled at his decision to call snap elections three years before the end of his mandate.

If the Left parties had run individual candidates for each seat, Mr Macron’s centrist alliance would have had a better chance of reaching the second round in many constituencies. To qualify for a run-off, a candidate needs to have won the backing of 12.5 per cent of registered voters.

However, while the mainstream Right-wing Republicans remain deeply divided over whether to back Ms Le Pen, the normally fractious Left on Thursday night struck a deal to forge a New Popular Front – a nod to the inter-war Left-wing alliance to keep out fascism, with an agreement on candidates and a joint programme.

In a major boost to that pact, it was endorsed by former president François Hollande, a Socialist, and then on Friday by Raphael Glucksmann, whose centre-Left ticket in EU elections saw him come third just behind the Macron camp.

Raphael Glucksmann has endorsed deal to forge a New Popular Front
Raphael Glucksmann has endorsed deal to forge a New Popular Front - ALAIN ROBERT/SHUTTERST0CK

Many supporters of Mr Glucksmann have made it clear they view the radical Unbowed France party led by the deeply polarising Jean-Luc Mélenchon as beyond the pale, due to its historic anti-EU stance, trenchant anti-capitalism and apparent refusal to describe Hamas as terrorists.

However, Mr Glucksmann, 44, told broadcaster France Inter that there was no choice and that all Left-leaning voters must engage in a “fight to the death” with the “far-Right”.

He added: “We can’t leave France to the Le Pen family.”

The new coalition was the only way to prevent a far-Right victory in the forthcoming polls, he said, reassuring his electorate that a more consensual figure than Mr Mélenchon would be picked as prime minister.

On Friday, the Left unveiled a joint manifesto, whose headline measures included scrapping Mr Macron’s controversial immigration and pension reforms.

“It’s going to be either the far-Right, or us,” Greens party leader Marine Tondelier told reporters.

The New Popular Front pledged to unfailingly defend the sovereignty and freedom of the Ukrainian people and to provide Kyiv with arms deliveries.

The coalition also proposed sending peacekeepers to secure nuclear power plants in Ukraine.

Marine Le Pen claims the National Rally could form a national unity government
Marine Le Pen claims the National Rally could form a national unity government - SARAH MEYSSONNIER/REUTERS

Hitting the campaign trail in Pas-de-Calais in northern France on Friday, Ms Le Pen claimed National Rally could win the elections and form a national unity government.

“We need to pull France out of the rut,” said the 55-year-old, who is expected to run for a fourth time in the 2027 presidential election.

She added: “We will gather all French people – men and women of goodwill – who are aware of the catastrophic situation in our country.”

By contrast, other Right-wing parties were embroiled in infighting.

Éric Ciotti, leader of the mainstream conservative Republicans, severed a historic sanitary cordon between his Gaullist party and RN by announcing that his party would form an electoral alliance with the Le Pen camp.

The rest of the party leadership promptly expelled him but Mr Ciotti insists he remains party chairman and is challenging his dismissal in court.

The Republicans’ political bureau held a fresh meeting by video conference on Friday and confirmed Mr Ciotti’s expulsion.

The 28-year-old RN chairman, Jordan Bardella, said his populist party and the Republicans would put up joint candidates in 70 of France’s 577 parliamentary constituencies, hailing what he said was a “historic agreement”.

Gabriel Attal, the French prime minister, poses for a photo on the campaign trail
Gabriel Attal, the French prime minister, poses for a photo on the campaign trail - LOIC VENANCE/AFP

He said he wanted to obtain the “broadest possible majority”.

Mr Macron remained defiant, defending his decision to dissolve parliament and call snap elections.

Speaking at a G7 summit in Italy on Thursday, he said his counterparts had praised his move.

“They all said, ‘This is courageous’,” Mr Macron told journalists.

Opinion polls this week suggest the most likely scenario is a hung parliament, but if the RN wins by a big margin, it will have a claim on the office of prime minister and the right to form a government. Ms Le Pen has already indicated that she would put Mr Bardella’s name forward as cabinet chief.

French police have warned there could be violence on Saturday in a string of anti-RN rallies across the country. They expect up to 100,000 protesters in Paris and up to 150,000 across the rest of France.

“Their configuration is reminiscent of the protests against pension reform,” a police source told BFM TV. “The unions will be very present to show that they can hold the street, the aim being to encourage people to go out and vote, with the risk of excesses from the ultra-Left and radicalised people, who could take advantage of the crowds to cause damage.

“The number of symbols that could be targeted is greater than for pension reform: shops, street furniture, police stations, but also Right-wing parliamentary offices,” added the source, describing the protests as “highly politicised”.