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Roving Periscope: With France’s right-turn, Europe tries to correct the Left-led ‘wrongs’

Roving Periscope: With France’s right-turn, Europe tries to correct the Left-led ‘wrongs’

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Virendra Pandit

New Delhi: Italy did it, and elected a hard right, rightist, and populist-nationalist Giorgia Meloni as the new Prime Minister in 2022. France is doing it now and is set to find a rightist replacement for centrist President Emmanual Macron.

Some other countries are also following. Europe, for sure, is turning from Left-led ‘liberal-democrats’ to Muslim-wary Rightist nationalism.

However, the self-righteous United Kingdom, always trying to be ‘different’ from the rest of Europe, is going in the opposite direction, waiting for the July 4 poll to potentially elect Keir Starmer to replace incumbent PM Rishi Sunak. Post-Brexit, the UK is turning from the Conservative Right to the Labor-Left.

Overconfident to retain power, European leaders are calling snap polls, and finding the ground underneath their feet suddenly slipping. The voter is silently leading this democratic shift from the Left to the Right, except in the UK.

France is the largest Catholic nation in Europe, the melting pot, the cauldron of revolutions for a thousand years. At the turn of the first millennium, it launched the Crusades against Muslims which continued for 300 years and led to the Renaissance.

Now, Paris is leading the Continent in its struggle to retain its demographic—and democratic—character in the face of the influx of millions of legal and illegal Muslim immigrants from the Middle East in the last couple of decades—who the Christians fear are out to avenge the Crusades and convert the Continent to Islam.

That explains why a wary France is turning far-right, and shows the shape of the things to come.

France’s far-right was on Sunday eyeing a historic chance to form a government and claim the post of Prime Minister after winning the first round of legislative elections with the centrist forces of President Emmanuel Macron coming in only third, the media reported on Monday.

But it remained unclear if the far-right National Rally (RN) party of Marine Le Pen would win the absolute majority of seats in the new National Assembly in the July 7 second round for his protege Jordan Bardella, 28, to become the next Prime Minister.

Early in June, President Macron stunned the nation and baffled even some allies by calling snap polls after the RN trounced his centrist forces in European Parliament elections.

However, that gamble risks backfiring, with Macron’s alliance now expected to win a far smaller minority contingent in parliament, potentially making Macron a far less powerful President for the remaining three years of his term.

Projections from prominent French polling firms gave the RN 33.2-33.5 percent of the vote, compared to 28.1-28.5 percent for the Left-wing New Popular Front alliance, and 21.0-22.1 percent for Macron’s centrist camp.

The polling agencies projected this would give the RN a majority of seats in the 577-seat National Assembly after the second round. But it was far from clear the party would garner the 289 seats needed for an absolute majority. Various projections claim the RN would get anywhere between 240 and 310 seats.

A worried Macron called for a “broad” alliance against the far right in the second round, which will see run-off votes where there was no outright winner in the first round.

The Left-wing alliance and the president’s camp expect that tactical voting to prevent RN candidates from winning seats will leave it short of the absolute majority.

French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal, who may resign after the second round, warned the far right was now at the “gates of power.” The RN should not get a “single vote” in the second round, he said.

“We have seven days to spare France from catastrophe,” said Raphael Glucksmann, a key figure in the Left-wing alliance.

With the French facing their most polarising choices in recent history, turnout soared to 65 percent, way above the 47.5 percent in 2022 polls.

Macron said the high turnout in the first round indicated “the importance of this vote for all our compatriots and the desire to clarify the political situation.”

The arrival of anti-immigration and eurosceptic RN in government would be a turning point in French modern history. For the first time, a far-right force could take power in the country since the Second World War when it was occupied by Nazi Germany.

“Nothing is won and the second round is decisive,” Le Pen, the far-right Presidential hopeful against Macron and one who has long worked to distance her party from its extremist origins, said.

“We need an absolute majority so that Jordan Bardella is in eight days named prime minister by Emmanuel Macron.” Bardella said he wanted to be the “prime minister of all French,” leaving many to speculate if they included the immigrants.

This would create a tense period of “cohabitation” with Macron, who has vowed to serve out his term until 2027.

Bardella has said he will only form a government if the RN wins an absolute majority in the elections.

Risk analysis firm Eurasia Group said the RN now looked “likely” to fall short of an absolute majority. France was facing “at least 12 months with a rancorously blocked National Assembly and — at best — a technocratic government of ‘national unity’ with limited capacity to govern”, it added.

Macron’s decision to call the snap vote sparked uncertainty in Europe’s second-biggest economy after Germany. The Paris stock exchange suffered its biggest monthly decline in two years in June, dropping by 6.4 percent, according to figures released on Friday.

The turmoil also risks undermining Macron’s stature as an international leader taking a prime role in helping Ukraine fight the Russian invasion. In the immediate aftermath of the second round, he is due to attend the NATO summit in Washington.

French daily “Liberation” urged voters to unite to halt the march of the far-right. “After the shock, form a block,” the newspaper said on its Monday front page.


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