France Faces Political Crossroads Amid Surge in Far-Right Sentiments

France Faces Political Crossroads Amid Surge in Far-Right Sentiments

Paris - France is currently voting in one of its most significant elections in years, with the far-right National Rally (RN) aiming for a historic victory, however, a political stalemate seems more likely.

For the first time, the anti-immigration RN, led by Marine Le Pen and Jordan Bardella, has a realistic chance of running the government and taking outright control of the National Assembly. Despite their first-round victory in last Sunday's snap parliamentary elections, many rival candidates have withdrawn to prevent the far right from gaining power.

Voting began in mainland France at 08:00 (06:00 GMT), with exit polls expected 12 hours later. Regardless of the outcome, it seems difficult for President Emmanuel Macron to emerge favorably. Macron called for the snap vote after the RN's success in European elections, responding to a challenge from Bardella.

This election comes just weeks before the Paris Olympics, adding to the political tension. Security is tight, with 30,000 police deployed, and there are fears of violence across French cities. A planned protest outside the National Assembly on Sunday evening has been banned.

In Dreux, where the Olympic flame is passing through, resident Antoine criticized Macron's timing of the election. Political commentator Nicolas Baverez believes Macron has jeopardized his presidency and the successful organization of the Paris 2024 Olympics. Dreux's constituency is one of the key races in this election, with Marine Le Pen and Jordan Bardella already securing their seats.

However, many races are still undecided. Former conservative cabinet minister Olivier Marleix was beaten in the first round by far-right candidate Olivier Dubois. They are now in a run-off along with a left-wing New Popular Front candidate. This withdrawal strategy, seen in 217 cases across France, has significantly altered the election dynamics.

The RN could potentially win up to 210 seats but is unlikely to achieve the 289-seat majority required for outright control. Parties opposing the RN, from the radical left to centrists and conservatives, aim to defend the Fifth Republic from far-right policies.

The RN has softened some policies but still prioritizes French citizens over immigrants for jobs and housing and seeks to abolish automatic citizenship for certain children of immigrants. If the RN secures around 250 seats, they might seek allies to form a minority government, although this could lead to a vote of no confidence.

Another possible scenario is a "grand coalition" involving most parties except the radical France Unbowed (LFI). Greens leader Marine Tondelier opposes having a Macronist prime minister. A technocrat government, similar to Italy's during the eurozone debt crisis, is another option.

France faces an uncertain political future, with President Macron likely to continue his term despite losing legitimacy. A national unity government might be necessary to ensure stability during the Olympics. Constitutional expert Benjamin Morel suggests such a government could provide a temporary solution until the end of the Paris Games.

Opinion polls predict the RN will win the most votes but fall short of a majority. This outcome could lead to a chaotic hung parliament and significantly weaken Macron's authority. If the RN wins a majority, Macron may face an awkward "cohabitation" with Bardella as prime minister.

The RN's rise has already unsettled many in France's immigrant and minority communities. Selma Bouziane, a 20-year-old cinema student, expressed concerns about the RN's stance on Islam and immigration. The RN plans to reduce immigration, tighten rules around family reunification, and loosen legislation to expel illegal migrants. These policies, if implemented, could profoundly impact France's social and political landscape.

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