France’s left and center urge alliance against far-right ahead of legislative runoff 

Paris — France’s far-right has never been closer to power after winning the first round of snap legislative elections Sunday. It’s a stunning result that could see the far-right taking control of the government — and a far-right prime minister ahead of the Paris Olympics — if it wins big in the second round runoff July 7.

The left and center are now calling for an alliance against extremism in one of Europe’s most important countries.

The far-right National Rally — and its leader, Marine Le Pen have been celebrating the latest results. She has spent years revamping the image of her anti-immigrant party from a racist fringe movement to an acceptable political alternative.

Her work appears to have paid off Sunday — the National Rally captured one-third of the vote, well ahead of President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist party and its allies, which placed third, with just over 20%.

A leftist alliance called the New Popular Front came second, with roughly 28% of the vote.

Turnout was the highest in years, showing the stakes many voters place in these surprise, snap legislative elections. They were called by Macron — three years ahead of schedule — after the far-right’s strong showing in last month’s European Parliament elections.

Analysts say Macron is gambling his party and his reform plans can somehow prevail, after years of gridlock in France’s National Assembly, or lower house.

But the far-right’s platform — tough on crime and illegal immigration and focused on common worries — is resonating.

National Rally President Jordan Bardella — possibly France’s next prime minister, if his party wins the majority of seats — called on voters to rally behind his ticket in the runoff.

Not everyone is sold. At a polling center in northeastern Paris, considered a leftist stronghold, many voters are dismayed at a possible National Rally victory.

“With our current government, we already had some right-wing policies, but that would only make things worse. Particularly with respect to the right to demonstrate, of the rights of minorities and everything,” said Paris voter Matthieu Maguet.

Emmanuela Konan won’t say how she voted — but she says a National Rally win will be difficult for the country.

Christine Pekar voted for Macron’s alliance.

“I think he showed political courage in pushing through all the reforms he did over the last seven years,” she said.

In Paris and elsewhere in the country, people rallied against the far-right after the first results were announced.

Leftist politicians are calling for an alliance against extremism.

So is France’s ruling party — and Macron’s prime minister, Gabriel Attal. To give mainstream parties a chance, he said, his alliance will pull out of runoff elections in areas where it’s not likely to win.

But divisions between Macron and the left are big. And, despite efforts to curb them, there’s a chance the National Rally could prove unstoppable.

 

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