France’s Conservative Leader Calls for Alliance With Far Right

The head of France’s mainstream conservative party on Tuesday called for an alliance with the far right in upcoming snap elections, throwing his party into deep turmoil as the shock waves from President Emmanuel Macron’s decision to dissolve the lower house of Parliament continue to course through French politics.

The announcement, by Éric Ciotti, the head of the Republicans, was a historic break with the party’s longstanding line and its ties to former President Charles de Gaulle. Mr. Ciotti’s call was immediately met with a chorus of angry disapproval from within his own ranks.

No leader of any mainstream French political party has ever previously embraced a possible alliance with Marine Le Pen’s National Rally, or its predecessor, the National Front. But across Europe, barriers to what was long regarded as the extreme nationalist right have been falling as those parties adjust their positions and as a broader consensus forms that large-scale illegal immigration across a porous European Union border must be curbed.

The elections for the National Assembly, the lower and more powerful house of France’s Parliament, are scheduled for June 30 and July 7. Mr. Macron called them last week after his party suffered a bruising defeat in the European Parliament elections, gaining just 14.6 percent of the vote nationwide, compared with about 31.4 percent for the National Rally led by Ms. Le Pen’s protégé, Jordan Bardella. The Republicans fared even worse, with only 7.25 percent.

Mr. Bardella, 28, who became the new and widely popular face of French politics during the campaign for the European Parliament elections, welcomed Mr. Ciotti’s announcement and described it as “putting the interests of the French people before those of our parties.”

In an interview on TF1 television, Mr. Ciotti said on Tuesday that his party had become “too weak” to stand on its own and needed to make a deal with the National Rally to keep a sizable group of lawmakers in the lower house. The Republicans, a party that was long a dominant force in French politics under the presidencies of Nicolas Sarkozy and Jacques Chirac, has only 61 lawmakers in the 577-seat National Assembly and could see those numbers dwindle even further.

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