Macron’s ministers say a polarising French election risks stoking unrest

Far-right expected to perform strongly in snap election on June 30th and July 7th

France's openly gay prime minister, Gabriel Attal said last week that he feared xenophobes of all stripes would feel empowered by an RN win. Photograph: Arnaud Finistre/AFP via Getty Images

France could face civil disorder and violence connected to snap parliamentary elections in which the far-right looks poised to win the largest share of the vote, two ministers from president Emmanuel Macron’s centrist government said on Monday.

Marine Le Pen’s nationalist, anti-immigrant National Rally (RN) came first in European Union elections two weeks ago, prompting Mr Macron to dissolve parliament and call elections that will take place just before the start of the Paris Olympics on July 26th.

The interior and finance ministers expressed worry on Monday that the far-right's success and the polarisation in French politics and society could lead to a surge in civil unrest.

“I fear for order, for relations between citizens, for serenity, for civil peace,” finance minister Bruno Le Maire said on France Info radio.


“I don't see the RN as a factor of stability and peace. I see it as a factor of disorder and violence,” he said.

RN leader Jordan Bardella, who could be prime minister if the RN wins the election – with Macron staying on as president in a powersharing arrangement – disputed at a press conference the assertion that the RN could be a factor of disorder.

Opinion polls suggest the RN has the most support ahead of the first round of voting on June 30th, with a new alliance of left-wing parties, the New Popular Front (NFP), in second place and Macron’s centrist Together group in third.

A run-off will take place on July 7th.

Interior minister Gerald Darmanin warned of the potential for “extremely strong tensions.”

He told RTL radio that this was a concern not just for the election period, but also for the autumn return to work after the August summer break.

The RN, whose forerunner the National Front was long a pariah in French politics due to the openly anti-Semitic views of its founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, has tried hard to detoxify its brand under the leadership of his daughter Marine Le Pen.

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But its opponents say their concerns are not only about the party itself but also the attitude of some of its more fringe supporters.

France's openly gay prime minister, Gabriel Attal, who is leading the centrist camp's campaign, said last week that he feared xenophobes of all stripes would feel empowered by an RN win.

Mr Attal cited media reports of a suspect in a homophobic attack telling police that he was looking forward to a far-right victory because it would make it easier to assault gay people.

“You see a form of hate that would be liberated, authorised in a way,” Mr Attal told reporters.

Britain experienced a surge in hate crime against Poles, Muslims and other minorities after a majority of citizens voted to leave the European Union in a 2016 referendum, partly driven by a desire to curb immigration.

France itself has a history of riots and violent street protests rooted in social divides. The fatal police shooting of a teenage boy of Algerian descent triggered days of nationwide rioting last summer. – Reuters

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