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Macron’s election gamble puts French democracy on the negotiating table

Via Hugh Schofield, BBC News, Paris

Getty Images Emmanuel Macronbeautiful images

French President Emmanuel Macron shocked France when he called for elections earlier this month

The two neighboring countries are heading towards what is being called a surprise election.

Both have governments expected to collapse.

Political tensions in both countries have divided families and friends.

Stop. At this point, any attempt to draw parallels between the British and French elections must end.

Because no matter how many problems there may be in the UK election – and there are many – it pales in comparison to the stakes that have been raised across the channel.

In France, the fate of one government or one leader is at stake – but of an entire political system.

And the risk is not disappointed hopes and dashed careers, as in a peacefully functioning democracy, but actual violence.

“The situations are very different,” said veteran French commentator Nicolas Baverez. “In Britain, you are at the end of a political cycle. Rishi Sunak’s call for an early election is entirely reasonable and everything is going according to the UK’s parliamentary system.

“In France, we are jumping into the unknown.”

Getty Images A demonstration in support of the Popular Front in Parisbeautiful images

Left-wing parties have formed an alliance – the New Popular Front – to stand up to the far-right in the election

President Macron stunned the country two weeks ago when he called a snap vote in response to his defeat by the far-right in elections to the European parliament.

He seems to have thought that a blitzkrieg campaign would jolt voters out of their flirtation with “extremists,” and return a centrist majority to Congress.

A week before the first round, there was nothing to suggest his calculations were correct. The far-right National Rally (RN) is still leading in the polls and there is now a left-wing coalition – whose main component is the far-left French Unyielding Party (LFI) – which is poised to come in second. .

The most likely outcome is an outright RN majority – and thus a far-right government – ​​or a hung parliament leading to paralysis.

In any case, Baverez said, the risks are threefold: first, a French sovereign debt crisis, when markets challenge the French government like they did previous British Prime Minister Liz Truss.

Second, violence on the streets. And third, institutional collapse.

“Our Fifth Republic is designed to help us overcome crisis. But we are in a very unstable situation. Citizens are lost because the president himself is lost, so we could have a brutal breakdown of institutions.”

Across France, people are aware that the country is at a dangerous crossroads.

Getty Images Jordan Bardella on TVbeautiful images

Jordan Bardella, the 28-year-old leader of the far-right party Rassemblement National (RN), could become the next prime minister of France

“When Macron called the election on the evening of the European elections, I called my children and said – you realize that we are living in a historic moment.” -et-Marne, south of Paris.

“People know that violence can happen. People are angry and frustrated – and there are politicians who will call for violence. It is manipulation, but it is what it is.”

President Macron himself even hinted at the possibility of a “civil war” – saying this was the logical conclusion of the programs of the far right and far left.

His words – in a podcast on Monday – were interpreted as an attempt to scare voters back to the center, but according to Baverez, that was deeply misguided.

“It would be dangerous if he used this word and tried to save his power by using fear. In a democracy, when you exploit fear, you breed hatred and violence,” he said.

Macron’s Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said the authorities were studying the assumption that there could be violent protests on the evenings of the first and second rounds (June 30 and July 7).

The nightmare scenario would be that an RN victory leads to calls for protests from the left, which then turn violent and involve immigrants from the suburbs.

The far-left LFI has a large support base in the banlieues and has made support for Gaza one of its main campaign themes.

Getty Images A pro-Palestinian protester in Lyonbeautiful images

Israel’s war in Gaza is further dividing French society

How the ensuing political turmoil might affect the Olympic Games, which begin less than three weeks after the election, is another of the questions that appears not to have been considered by the president.

For Baverez, no matter how great the differences, there is a similarity between the French and British elections.

“France is having a populist moment,” he said.

“The US and UK had their relationship 10 years ago, with Trump and Brexit. France was then saved thanks to the strength of our institutions, but also thanks to the protection of the euro.

“Joining the euro means governments here can continue to do what they have always done: buy social peace by increasing public debt. Okay, now it’s over.”


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