France ends ugly campaign, breathes for historic vote


France’s rushed and sometimes violent election campaign is over, ending with stern appeals from political leaders ahead of Sunday’s decisive vote.

centrist prime minister Gabriel Attal said Friday night that a far-right government would “unleash hatred and violence.”

But the leader of the National Rally, Jordan Bardellaaccused his rivals of immoral and anti-democratic behavior and urged voters to take action and give him an absolute majority.

Last Sunday, one in three French voters supported Rassemblement National (RN) in the first round of the parliamentary elections.

The choice this week is between France’s first far-right government or political deadlock, with voters fearing unrest will ensue regardless of who wins.

The climate is so tense that 30,000 additional police officers are being deployed.

Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said 51 candidates, or their deputies or party activists, had been physically attacked by people of different backgrounds, including some who were “spontaneously angry”.

In one incident, an extremist network published a list of nearly 100 lawyers to be “eliminated” after they signed an open letter against Rassemblement National.

Police patrol the street near a poster advertising the Paris 2024 Olympic Games in ParisPolice patrol the street near a poster advertising the Paris 2024 Olympic Games in Paris

Police have been deployed in large numbers for the Paris Olympics and are now also being deployed for Sunday’s elections (REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch)

President Emmanuel MacronThe decision to end it less than a month ago came as a shock, but the consequences are unknown.

When voters talk about the elections, the tension is often palpable.

Kaltoun’s hair is covered and she says she feels increasingly uncomfortable for her and her daughter in her town on the border with Belgium, where RN won the first round. “It’s a comment or a look; every election it gets worse.”

In nearby Tourcoing, Gérald Darmanin faces a major challenge to keep his seat against the far-right candidate, who trailed him by just 800 votes last Sunday.


France’s interior minister is running against a far-right local candidate in his hometown of Tourcoing (BBC)

That is why left-wing candidate Leslie Mortreux decided to withdraw from the second round, in order to have a better chance of beating RN.

In the 500 seats that will be decided by a second round, 217 candidates from the left-wing New Popular Front and the Macron Ensemble alliance have withdrawn to prevent the RN from winning. Although dozens of three-way races are still ongoing, 409 seats will now be decided by one-on-one contests.

After the first round, some opinion polls indicated that RN had a chance of winning an absolute majority in the National Assembly.

The latest polls from the campaign suggest that this is no longer possible. Even if RN boss Marine Le-Pen believes they still have a “serious chance” of winning the 289 seats they need to control the Assembly, pollsters say around 200 is a more realistic figure.

A major poll released hours before the end of the campaign showed that the uncomfortable series of withdrawals by left-wing and centrist candidates in third place dashed the hopes of Marine Le Pen, the protégé of Rassemblement National and its leader, of becoming prime minister at the age of 28.

“We are presiding over the birth of a single Mélenchon-Macron party,” Jordan Bardella lamented. “And this dishonorable alliance has been formed with the sole purpose of preventing us from winning.”

The Popular Front is made up of socialists, greens and communists, but the largest party is France Unbowed, led by radical activist Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

He is widely condemned as an extremist by his rivals and is certainly no ally of President Emmanuel Macron.

Despite their agreement to keep the far right out, there is no love lost between the two camps.

“You don’t beat the far right with the far left,” the interior minister said, even though a France Unbowed candidate had withdrawn to help him win.

Macron’s centrists are in third place in the polls, well behind the Popular Front and the Rassemblement National.

“In France, we are fed up with Macron, and I am more in the centre,” Marc said in Tourcoing. “The cost of living is bad, and the rich have become richer and the poor have become poorer.”

Rassemblement National has focused its campaign on media appearances by Mr Bardella and Marine Le Pen, and there have been claims that “ghost candidates” have barely made an appearance in some areas.

When one of the candidates in the city of Orléans, Élodie Babin, qualified for the second round without much campaigning, she later claimed that she had been ill for ten days.

RN is especially popular in rural areas.

In Mennecy, a sleepy town in the Essonne region south of Paris, Mathieu Hillaire held his final campaign event as the Popular Front candidate. He is locked in a duel with RN candidate Nathalie Da Conceicao Carvalho, after the pro-Macron candidate withdrew to give her leftist rival a better chance to block the far right.

Matthieu Hillaire (R) with a supporter in MennecyMatthieu Hillaire (R) with a supporter in Mennecy

Matthieu Hillaire (R) of the New Popular Front is in a run-off with the RN in the Essonne region south of Paris (BBC)

Mr Hillaire said that while the climate locally is less tense than elsewhere, some people are still concerned: “Of the voters I’ve met, many are afraid of Jordan Bardella.”

Many of RN’s policies are aimed at lowering the cost of living and tackling law and order, but their anti-immigration plans have raised specific concerns.

RN wants to give French citizens “national priority” over immigrants in terms of jobs and housing, and wants to abolish the right to automatic French citizenship for children of foreign parents who have lived in France for five years, from age 11 to 18.

People with dual nationality would also be excluded from dozens of sensitive jobs.

Prime Minister Gabriel Attal spoke of “uncertainty and concern” among the French population.

He said his party had averted the risk of Jean-Luc Mélenchon winning a majority in the first round. Now came the risk of the far right, whose policies would “unleash hatred and violence with a plan to stigmatize some of our fellow citizens” and would be catastrophic for the French economy.

But what happens on Sunday night when a stalemate occurs and there is no clear path forward to forming a government?

The Olympic Games are now just 20 days away and there are indications that France will be without a government or prime minister when it hosts such a major global event.

Mr Attal, who had previously suggested his minority government might last “as long as necessary”, was much more vague on Friday night.

“Next week I don’t know what I’m going to do, where I’m going to do it,” he said. “But I know who I’m going to do it for: the people of France, that’s the only thing that matters to me.”

?s=598314& gb%5D& nojs ISAPI%5D&x9=%5BFrance+ends+ugly+campaign+and+draws+breath+before+historic+vote%5D&x11=%5B2024 07 05T23%3A08%3A49.191Z%5D&x12=%5B2024 07

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top