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French march against far-right National Rally as polls loom

June 15, 2024

Protesters rallied in Paris and other French cities against far-right parties following their surge in the EU elections. France is now headed for a snap election of its own.

Left wing protesters climb statues in Paris to display signs in support of a new leftist alliance
Tens of thousands of people marched in the French capitalImage: Michel Euler/AP Photo/picture alliance

Some 75,000 people turned out for a protest against far-right parties in the French capital Paris, police said on Saturday.

Police said some 250,000 protesters marched nationwide.

Anti-racism groups, labor unions, and left-wing politicians and their supporters took part in the marches.

Protesters rally against the far right across France

"To me, the extreme right is a danger because it supports an ideology based on the fear of the other, whereas we are all French citizens despite our differences," a 16-year-old protester of French and Algerian descent told the AP news agency.

She also said she feared the rise of the far-right National Rally (RN) party "because I am afraid that they will ban the hijab in [the] name of women's liberty. I am a woman and I should be able to decide what I want to wear."

The marches were mostly peaceful but police reported "numerous attempts at damage" by protesters in Paris, and later said seven people were arrested.

Marine Le Pen wants a 'national unity government'

The ongoing political insecurity in France was prompted by the European Parliament election earlier this month. The RN secured over 31% of the votes, more than twice that of the centrist bloc favored by French President Emmanuel Macron.

Macron responded by calling for a snap parliamentary election, which is due to be held on June 30 and July 7. He called on "all those who say no to extremism" to support him.

But many fear France is headed for its first far-right government, after Eric Ciotti, the head of center-right Les Republicans, signaled he was open to a coalition with RN and another extreme right-wing party, the Reconquête (Reconquest). Ciotti is now facing a rebellion from inside his own party.

Marine Le Pen, who handed over the reins to RN to her young protege Jordan Bardella in 2022, recently pledged a "national unity government" if her party takes power.

Macron’s gamble: Does France want far right in government?

French left create 'New Popular Front'

During the Paris rally on Saturday, hard-left CGT union leader Sophie Binet said she and her allies were "extremely worried that Jordan Bardella could become the next prime minister."

"We want to prevent this disaster," she told reporters at the Place de La Republique.

On Friday, France's left-wing parties agreed to form an alliance despite their disagreements on the war in Gaza, naming their bloc "New Popular Front."

"The only thing that matters to me is that the (RN) don't win and won't govern," leftist leader Raphaël Glucksmann told Inter radio.

"We can't leave France to the Le Pen family," he added.

A Saturday opinion poll indicated RN could reach 33% in the first round of the vote, with the New Popular Front at 25%, leaving Macron's centrist camp on 20%.

Le Pen, Bardella rebrand far right as mainstream party

dj/nm (AP, AFP; Reuters)