‘Manterrupting’: anger as French PM speaks over female head of his party’s EU election list

France’s prime minister has been accused of deliberately seeking to eclipse the head of his party’s list in European elections when he unexpectedly appeared on a stage where she was taking part in a radio debate.

The prime minister, Gabriel Attal, strolled into France Info’s radio debate with lead candidates amid an exchange between the anchor and the head of the ruling party’s list for the 9 June polls, Valérie Hayer.

Hayer has largely failed to score with the public in the campaign for the election where the French far right may score a victory in a major setback for the ruling Renaissance party of president Emmanuel Macron.

“Hello, sorry I’m bursting on to the stage,” Attal told the audience as Hayer looked on, saying it was important to him to address the young people watching and to “encourage Valérie”.

He then launched into a short stump speech on how many key issues like climate change “can only be tackled through Europe”.

Asked by the anchor if he was worried about Hayer in the elections, Attal replied: “I am worried about Europe,” and noted the rise of the far right.

“This is the new ‘phone a friend’ lifeline that [Hayer] seems to be using more and more,” said François-Xavier Bellamy, candidate for the conservative Republicans party who was next to speak in the debate, referring to the Who Wants to be a Millionaire? quiz show.

“Clearly people around her think they’re better at campaigning. There’s a bit of a macho aspect to all this,” he said.

The head of the hard-left France Unbowed (LFI) party’s list for the elections, Manon Aubry, posted a video of the event calling it the “definition of mansplaining”.

Raquel Garrido, an LFI MP, called the incident “mansplaining or, to be more precise, manterrupting”, using an American English neologism coined by feminists.

Attal had already faced accusations of blatantly eclipsing the head of his party’s list when he, not Hayer, took part last month in a televised TV debate with far right National Rally (RN) lead candidate, Jordan Bardella.

The 28-year-old’s challenge to Attal, 35, France’s youngest and first openly gay premier, has been cast as a battle for dominance of the next generation of French politics.

The three-time RN presidential candidate, Marine Le Pen, called the incident “truly shameful” adding that Attal would “have never allowed that if the candidate was a man”.

But writing on X, Hayer lashed out at opponents accusing Attal of sexism.

“Instrumentalising the feminist cause only harms it. Real sexism is believing you can think for me,” she wrote adding she was “proud” to have Attal “by my side” in the campaign.

The incident was however the latest bump for the ruling party’s campaign in the election, with polls showing the RN scoring over double the total of Renaissance.

In another blow late last week, France’s debt was downgraded by rating agency S&P.

An Ipsos poll released on Monday suggested 33% of people could vote for the RN list in the 9 June polls with Renaissance on 16% only just ahead of the chasing Socialists.

The government on Monday faced two confidence motions in parliament put forward by LFI and the RN.

But both fell short of the 289 votes needed for an overall majority to unseat the government as the Republicans refused to support them.

The Guardian