Legislative elections in France | Last day of campaign, absolute uncertainty

(Paris) France concludes a campaign under very high tension on Friday, two days before historic legislative elections which will see the country either swing to the extreme right or sink into unprecedented political instability.


Published at 9:16 a.m.



Didier LAURAS and the AFP political service

France Media Agency

The official campaign ends at midnight (6 p.m. Eastern time) and will have revealed the great fragmentation of one of the pillars of the European Union, after seven years of Emmanuel Macron’s presidency.

On Friday, his Prime Minister Gabriel Attal raised the possibility of a blockage, saying that his government could ensure the continuity of the state “as long as necessary” if the ballot boxes did not produce a clear majority.

Because the country could de facto fall asleep on Sunday without the slightest idea of ​​who would govern it, one month before the Paris Olympic Games (July 26-August 11).

Since the president’s surprise decision to dissolve the Assembly after its debacle in the European elections on June 9, the country’s rapid political restructuring has confirmed the rise of the National Rally (RN, far right), which hopes to come to power next week.

The fear of a government led by the extreme right, which would be a first in France since the Second World War, has however led to the painful formation of a new “republican front” with the withdrawal of some 200 candidates from the right, centre right and left to counter the RN candidates in the second round.

Far-right leader Marine Le Pen sees this as the creation of a “single party” bringing together “those who want to retain power against the will of the people.”

The unknown of abstentions

Among the unknowns of the vote is the number of abstainers. “With the withdrawals, the person for whom the voters had intended to vote has fallen by the wayside,” Janine Mossuz-Lavau, emeritus research director at the Center for Political Research at Sciences Po (CEVIPOF), explained to AFP.

Some people “will say to themselves: ‘no, in these conditions, it’s not possible'”.

According to an Ifop poll published on Thursday, the RN and its allies would obtain between 210 and 240 seats, far from an absolute majority (289). The New Popular Front alliance would come in second, ahead of the Macronist camp and the Republican right, but without a clear majority.

“Either the National Rally obtains an absolute majority and I can, from Sunday, initiate the recovery project that I am carrying […]”Or the country is blocked,” said RN president Jordan Bardella, 28, who aspires to become prime minister, on Thursday evening.

The refusal front is broad and brings together a large part of the political world but also healthcare workers, unions and sportspeople.

Without explicitly naming the RN, the captain of the French football team Kylian Mbappé urged his compatriots on Thursday to go and vote and choose “the right side” after a “catastrophic” first round.

“There is a real urgency. We cannot put the country in the hands of these people,” said the striker, whose team is playing in the Euro in Germany.

PHOTO SYLVAIN THOMAS, ARCHIVES AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Place Albert 1er in Montpellier, July 4, 2024, as the second round of the French legislative elections approaches: during a rally, a woman throws a ball towards cans representing the leaders of the far right.

51 physical assaults

But will these calls be followed? Louise, 23, refuses to choose between the centrist Horizons party and the RN in her constituency of Manche (North-West), after having voted for Lutte Ouvrière (extreme left) in the first round.

She “really regretted” her blockade vote in favor of Emmanuel Macron against Marine Le Pen in the presidential election in 2022. “I don’t know if I know anyone who would vote for the majority,” she admits.

This fundamental fracture has given rise to a violent campaign, with physical attacks on activists, verbal threats, political score-settling and the release of racist speech. “51 candidates, substitutes or activists” have been “physically attacked” in recent days, according to Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin.

In the latest incident, the LR (right) mayor of a town in the east of the country filed a complaint after being insulted by poster hangers, his office announced.

“They told him in particular that he had to prepare himself because he was one of the ‘collaborators’ and that they were going to come back to ‘shear him’,” he added, referring to the French women who had their heads shaved after the Liberation in 1945 for having had relations with German soldiers.

Despite its long strategy of normalization, the RN has been caught up in racist and anti-Semitic excesses by several of its candidates, which the party has tried to minimize by talking about a few “black sheep” or “blunders.”

“When it’s one candidate out of three […]”It’s not a few black sheep, it’s the whole flock that’s sick,” Gabriel Attal mocked.

As a sign of the tense climate, the government announced that “30,000 police officers and gendarmes, including 5,000 in Paris and its suburbs” would be mobilized on Sunday for the evening of the second round.

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