Posted on July 7, 2024

Riots as ‘France’s Jeremy Corbyn’ Claims Election Win

Miriam Kuepper et al., Daily Mail, July 7, 2024

Violence has erupted on the streets of France after a shock exit poll predicted that a left-wing coalition is leading the snap election battle – dashing Marine Le Pen’s hopes of forming the country’s first hard-right government since the war.

Shocking footage shows hooded and masked protesters running through the streets, launching flares and setting France ablaze – after 30,000 riot police were deployed across France amid high political tension.

This comes after the second round of polls predicted the hard right National Rally (RN) is on track to come third – having led the race after the first round.

The New Popular Front (NFP) alliance is on course to have 172-215 MPs with Emmanuel Macron’s centrists on 150-180 seats and the RN on 115-155, according to projections by four leading polling firms.

The party was formed last month, bringing together socialists, greens, communists and the hard-left into one camp – with the leader of the radical left, Jean-Luc Melenchon, vowing to implement several socialist policies, which critics fear will leave France ‘ungovernable’.

Melenchon, who is often compared to former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, promised to increase public spending by at least €150billion within the next five years, which will be financed by increasing taxes.

The hard left leader, who has previously been accused of antisemitism, also said he would raise the minimum wage by 14 per cent, introduce a ban on price increases of essential goods and reduce the state pension age from 64 to just 60.

But while the NFP leads in the exit polls, it does not have enough seats for a majority and the lack of such for any single alliance has plunged France into political and economic turmoil.

Prime Minister Gabriel Attal said he would offer Macron his resignation on Monday but was ready to serve ‘as long as duty demands’, notably in light of the imminent Games.

Some 30,000 riot police – including 5,000 in and around Paris – have been deployed to ‘ensure that the radical right and radical left do not take advantage of the situation to cause mayhem’, interior minister Gerald Darmanin said.

Final results are not expected until late Sunday or early Monday in the snap election that was called just four weeks ago in a huge gamble for Macron.

The deeply unpopular president lost control of parliament, according to the projections.

The far-right NR drastically increased the number of seats it holds in parliament but fell far short of expectations.

France now faces the prospect of weeks of political machinations to determine who will be prime minister and lead the National Assembly.

And Macron faces the prospect of leading the country alongside a prime minister opposed to most of his domestic policies.

In a somber speech after the second-round legislative election, Jordan Bardella, the president of the far right RN, denounced the political maneuvering that led the National Rally to fall far short of expectations.

An unprecedented number of candidates who qualified for the runoff stepped aside to allow an opponent to go head-to-head with the National Rally candidate, increasing the chances of defeating them.

Despite projections widely considered disappointing for the anti-immigration, nationalist party, it still increased its seat count in parliament to an unprecedented high, according to polling projections.

‘Tonight, by deliberately taking the responsibility to paralyze our institutions, Emmanuel Macron … is consequently depriving the French people of any responses to their daily problems for many months to come,’ Bardella said.

Hard-left France Unbowed leader Melenchon, 72, giving his first reaction, called on French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal to resign and said the left-wing coalition was ready to govern.

‘The French people have voted with a conscience,’ said Melenchon, a former presidential candidate and one of the main leaders of the NPF. ‘Our people have clearly ruled out the worst solution to our problems.’

Melenchon welcomed ‘a result that had seemed impossible’, adding: ‘This evening the RN is far from having an absolute majority. This is a huge relief for millions of people who make up the new France.’

Victory for the NPF followed even Macron calling for a ‘Republican Front’ against the RN – pulling candidates out of key constituencies so as to leave a single anti-RN one with a clear run at victory.

Avoiding so-called ‘Cohabitation’ – a lame duck President working with an opposition government – will come as a huge relief to Macron, but he still has massive problems ahead.

He called the snap election as a result of huge RN gains in the European Parliament, and had said a large vote for extremists could lead to ‘civil war’.

Former French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said France needed a pact to make sure there is a stable government, adding that he was ready to take on this task and invited other to join him in the effort. ‘I am ready’, said Philippe.

The RN deputy of the North, Sebastien Chenu, who was re-elected last week in the first round of the elections, reacted to the first results which placed his party in 3rd position.

He denounced a France ‘plunged into a quagmire’ after ‘unnatural alliances’ were formed.

Macron will attend next week’s landmark NATO summit in Washington a diminished but not defeated figure and France has been left without a stable ruling majority less than three weeks before Paris hosts the Olympics.

The snap elections in this nuclear-armed nation have potential impact on the war in Ukraine, global diplomacy and Europe’s economic stability. They’re almost certain to undercut Macron for the remaining three years of his presidency.

The election campaign, the shortest in French history, has been marked by a febrile national mood, threats and violence – including racist abuse – against dozens of candidates and canvassers.

Turnout was high, with left-wing and centrist candidates urging supporters to defend democratic values and the rule of law – while the far right scented a chance to upend the established order.

By 5pm local time, according to interior ministry figures, some 61.4 percent of voters had turned out – the most at this stage of a legislative race since 1981.

An outright RN victory would have seen Macron forced into an uneasy cohabitation with Bardella as prime minister for the remaining three years of his term.

Even without that scenario, France is left with a hung parliament with a large eurosceptic, anti-immigration contingent.

This would have weakened France’s international standing and threaten Western unity in the face of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

‘Even if the right extreme less strong than expected, the country is more divided than ever,’ Armin Steinbach, European economist and professor at Business School HEC Paris, said.

‘Centre parties have lost compared to the last election in 2022. Extreme parties, from the left and right, have gained. The country is polarised.’

He added: ‘A deadlock is the most likely outcome because of the lack of majority in parliament. A quick solution within days is unlikely.

‘France has no political culture to make coalitions and compromises, like Germany or Italy. That is why it feels like a crisis for the French.’

EU officials, already learning to deal with far-right parties in power in Italy and the Netherlands and frustrated by Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban, are watching France closely.

With the country on tenterhooks, last week saw more than 200 tactical-voting pacts between centre and left wing candidates in seats to attempt to prevent the RN winning an absolute majority.

This has been hailed as a return of the anti-far right ‘Republican Front’ first summoned when Le Pen’s father Jean-Marie faced Jacques Chirac in the run-off of 2002 presidential elections.

The question for France now is if this last-ditch alliance of last resort can now support a stable government, dogged by a huge RN bloc in parliament led by Le Pen herself as she prepares a 2027 presidential bid.

If no coalition emerges, Prime Minister Gabriel Attal could try to lead a minority government as, under French rules, the president can not dissolve parliament again and call a fresh poll for 12 months.

‘France is on the cusp of a seismic political shift,’ said analysts at the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), warning of ‘legislative gridlock’ that would weaken ‘France’s voice on the European and international stage’.

Professor Steinbach said that two main scenarios are possible now: ‘Firstly, a minority government by the left-wing block because as the “winner” they have the legitimacy to form a government.

‘With this result, there’ll be no Macronist prime minister, hence a Cohabitation. Much depends on whether the NFP will stay united and not break up in old conflicts.

‘They could in next days propose a moderate left-wing PM candidate. Francois Holland could be such candidate.

‘Secondly, Macron’s party and Republicans form a coalition as a minority government. This would be very unpopular and may trigger protests because he clearly lost the election.’