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Historic French Election: Far-Right Government Possible for First Time Since WWII

French voters commenced voting on Sunday in the first round of an unexpected parliamentary election, which could lead to the establishment of the country’s first far-right government since World War II, marking a significant shift in the European Union’s political landscape.

President Emmanuel Macron surprised the nation by calling for this vote after his centrist alliance suffered a heavy defeat in the recent European elections, where Marine Le Pen’s National Rally (RN) emerged victorious. Le Pen’s party, known for its eurosceptic and anti-immigrant stance, has moved from political isolation to being closer to power than ever before.

Polling stations opened at 0600 GMT and will close at 1600 GMT in smaller towns and cities, with a later closing time of 1800 GMT in larger cities. The first exit polls and seat projections for the crucial second round, scheduled for a week later, are anticipated as the polls close. However, due to the complexities of the electoral system, the exact distribution of the 577-seat National Assembly may remain uncertain until voting concludes on July 7.

“We are going to win an absolute majority,” Le Pen declared in a newspaper interview, predicting that her 28-year-old protégé, Jordan Bardella, would become prime minister. The RN’s platform includes high public spending and reduced immigration.

If the RN secures an absolute majority, it could lead to unprecedented diplomatic turbulence, with Macron continuing his presidency until 2027 and Bardella competing for the right to represent France.

At a voting station in Sevres, near Paris, 70-year-old former company director Didier Delacroix expressed his support for Macron’s alliance, citing concerns about potential chaos otherwise.

France has experienced “cohabitation” – where the president and government come from opposing political camps – three times since World War II, but never with such radically different ideologies competing at the helm of the state. Bardella has indicated plans to challenge Macron on global issues, potentially shifting France from a strong EU pillar to a disruptive force, demanding rebates on EU contributions, and clashing over European Commission positions.

An RN victory could also bring uncertainty regarding France’s stance on the Russia-Ukraine war. While the party has recently pledged to support Ukraine against Russian aggression, it has also outlined strict conditions, such as refusing to supply long-range missiles.

Opinion polls indicate the RN holds a comfortable lead with 33-36% of the vote, followed by a left-wing coalition, the New Popular Front, at 28-31%, and Macron’s centrist alliance trailing at 20-23%. The New Popular Front encompasses a broad spectrum of left-leaning parties, including the eurosceptic, anti-NATO France Unbowed, led by Jean-Luc Melenchon, a fierce critic of Macron.

Predicting the translation of these votes into National Assembly seats is challenging due to the electoral process. Candidates need an absolute majority to win in the first round, which is rare. Most constituencies will proceed to a second round, involving candidates who received at least 12.5% of the vote. The highest scorer in the second round wins.

Vincent Martigny, a political science professor at the University of Nice and the Ecole Polytechnique, explained that high participation could lead to more parties entering the fray, increasing the likelihood of split voting, which tends to benefit the RN.

Historically, voters and parties opposing the far-right have united to block its rise, but this unity might not hold this time. It remains uncertain whether candidates from Macron’s camp will withdraw in the second round to support left-wing rivals against the RN or vice versa.

Le Pen and Bardella have attempted to make their party more palatable to mainstream voters by denouncing antisemitism, distancing themselves from the party’s founder Jean-Marie Le Pen’s controversial comments. However, critics argue that the RN’s outreach to Jewish communities is a façade to deflect accusations of racism while continuing to stigmatize Muslims and immigrants.

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Charles Wright
Charles Wrighthttps://devstory.org.za
Charles Wright embarked on his journalism career two decades ago, quickly making a name for himself with his insightful reporting and keen eye for detail. His dedication to uncovering the truth and presenting well-researched stories has earned him a reputation as a reliable and respected journalist. Over the years, Charles has covered a wide range of topics, from local news and politics to international affairs and in-depth investigative pieces. Throughout his career, Charles has demonstrated exceptional skills in investigative journalism, political reporting, and feature writing. His ability to dissect complex issues and present them in a clear, engaging manner has won him numerous accolades and the trust of his readers. Charles is known for his commitment to unbiased reporting and his relentless pursuit of the facts, which has made him a cornerstone of the journalistic community.