French far-right leaders hint at talks on election pact with Les Républicains

The French far-right leaders Jordan Bardella and Marine Le Pen have hinted they are in negotiations with members of the mainstream right to field joint candidates in the snap general election this month.

As political parties scrambled to form alliances after Emmanuel Macron’s shock decision to dissolve parliament on Sunday, conservative leaders have demanded Les Républicains (LR) clarify whether they will ally with National Rally (RN).

Any pact with the RN, which does not have enough candidates to fight every seat, would be a historic departure for the opposition right and threatens to split LR, which came fifth in Sunday’s European vote in France.

Asked on Tuesday whether the RN was in talks with LR candidates, Bardella replied: “We will see. Have a little patience.”

LR’s leader, Éric Ciotti, has ruled out an alliance with the conservative former prime minister Édouard Philippe’s Horizons party but so far made no comment on possible alliances with the far right. Le Figaro newspaper reported that Ciotti was considering an agreement with the RN and would make an announcement on Monday afternoon.

Xavier Bertrand, an LR regional president in northern France, deplored Ciotti’s failure to firmly reject Le Pen’s call for an alliance. “We owe our voters the truth,” Bertrand said. “The DNA of the republican right is never the extremes, never the far right, never Madame Le Pen. If certain [LR representatives] want to stand with the RN they should say now.”

He added: “As far as I’m concerned, it is clear: never the National Rally. Not today, not tomorrow, not the day after.”

Since the election announcement, all parties have engaged in what the French media are calling a “national seduction” campaign – a race to pick up potential candidates before 16 June, the deadline for declarations. The official election campaign will begin on 17 June and the two-round vote takes place on 30 June and 7 July.

On the left, party leaders, including socialists, communists and hard left, are reported to have formed a “popular front” that will field a single candidate. It is unclear if La France Insoumise (LFI) has joined the alliance and what role if any the party’s leader, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, would play.

Mélenchon was scathing about his leftwing rivals, particularly the Socialist party (PS) candidate Raphaël Glucksmann, during the European campaign. Glucksmann’s team insisted he would not join any alliance that included LFI. Glucksmann has said there is no formal agreement as yet.

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In his first interview since Sunday, Bardella said: “We are ready to govern.” He told French television that in case of a “cohabitation” – where the president and government are not the from the same party – that would stymie the RN’s yet to be released programme, the RN would concentrate on crime, immigration and the cost of living.

Macron was due to give a press conference on Tuesday afternoon, but postponed it until Wednesday. The Élysée said the president would make three “election interventions” every week until the election.

A Harris Interactive poll suggested the RN could win 34% of votes, well ahead of any leftwing alliance on 22%, Macron’s Renaissance on 19% and LR on 9%.

The Guardian

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