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France’s Republican Party removes leader over far-right coalition deal

Via Paul Kirby, BBC news

 REUTERS/Sarah Meyssonnier Eric Ciotti, head of French conservative party Les Republicains, leaves party headquarters in Paris REUTERS/Sarah Meyssonnier

Eric Ciotti said his party needs a coalition “while remaining itself”

France’s Republican Party has fired its leader, Eric Ciotti, after he called for a political alliance with the far-right National Rally Party in early elections later this month.

The political leaders of the right-wing party made the decision just over 24 hours after Mr. Ciotti’s plan cause uproar among Republican politicians.

The apparent collapse within France’s mainstream conservative party comes hot on the heels of the National Rally’s stinging victory in Sunday’s European elections – and President Emmanuel Macron’s swift decision to call for a national vote.

Mr. Ciotti responded to his colleagues, accusing them of “flagrantly violating” party rules and affirming that he would get nowhere.

Elected party leader in December 2022, Mr. Ciotti has always been considered more hardline than most Republican leaders.

But when he went on TV Tuesday to announce that Republicans “need to have a coalition while remaining themselves… a coalition with the RN.” [National Rally] and its candidates”, leading party figures said he only spoke for himself when proposing a treaty.

National Rally leader Jordan Bardella later confirmed there was a deal and that his party would support “dozens” of Republican candidates.

Highly respected Senate President Gérard Larcher said he would never swallow the pact with the RN, and other colleagues have publicly called for Mr Ciotti’s immediate dismissal ahead of two rounds of parliamentary elections on November 1. June 30 and July 7.

Mr. Macron on Wednesday accused Mr. Ciotti of turning his back on a party whose tradition goes back to former Presidents Charles de Gaulle, Jacques Chirac and Nicolas Sarkozy.

The Republican Party has struggled in elections in recent years, unable to fend off the rise of Mr. Macron’s centrist party, now known as the Renaissance, or National Rally Party. In Sunday’s election, they could only win 7.25%.

Although an estimated half of grassroots Republicans support a coalition with National Rally, the vast majority of party leaders have flatly rejected it.

In an apparent attempt to prevent his dismissal at an emergency meeting of party leaders on Wednesday, Mr. Ciotti ordered the party headquarters in Paris locked down, citing a security risk.

He later asserted that “none of the decisions taken at this meeting carry legal consequences. They could have criminal consequences”. He later told French television that “about 80” candidates would fight for the Republican Party with the backing of the National Rally.

The Republicans have now appointed their main candidate in Sunday’s vote, François-Xavier Bellamy, as interim leader. “The forces of chaos today threaten our country… We have a line to hold,” he told reporters.

Hours earlier, Mr. Macron defended his shocking decision to dissolve parliament and call for elections, calling on French voters to unite and “say no to extremes.”

French EPA President Emmanuel Macron spoke at a press conference EPA

Mr. Macron said he would not participate in the election campaign, although his speech was deeply political

The French president denies he wants to hand the keys to power to the far right, arguing that a national vote is the only republican option.

He said many political groups “cannot sympathize with this extremist fever” and should unite against it.

His comments do not simply reflect Mr. Ciotti’s overtures to the leaders of the National Rally, Marine Le Pen and Jordan Bardella.

He is also reacting to the decision by the mainstream centre-left to agree to a pact with the far left, which he accuses of espousing anti-Semitic and anti-parliamentary attitudes.

On Sunday, Raphaël Glucksmann led the center-left to third place with a campaign to appeal to voters alienated by Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s more radical, unyielding France.

Mr. Macron said that the masks of both orthodox forces had slipped and the battle for values ​​had erupted.

Mr. Mélenchon accused the president of implementing a chaotic strategy and indulging in a wave of insults “to those who do not share his views.”

Mr Macron has been widely criticized for his decision to spontaneously call an election, an hour after his party polled below 15% while the National Rally achieved almost 31.5% in the election. in Europe.

Two years into his second presidential term, his party does not have a majority in the French National Assembly – so any legislation requires support from political allies.

Mr. Macron argued that the system was clogged, leaving the government unable to act.

He said that, as president, he would not be involved in the election campaign and would leave it to Prime Minister Gabriel Attal – although his speech on Wednesday sounded a lot like a campaign launch his party’s election campaign.

When asked by a reporter if he would hand over the keys to France to the far right, Mr. Macron said doing nothing was not an option and asking the people to decide was a democratic principle.

Voters who supported the National Rally on Sunday expressed their anger, he said, adding: “Message received.”


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