The cordon sanitaire against the extreme right falters before the second round of the French legislative elections | International

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The French president, Emmanuel Macron and the veteran leftist Jean-Luc Mélenchon, rivals in the legislative elections this Sunday in France, oppose almost everything, but at least they agree on one point: the particular interpretation they make of the cordon sanitaire or republican front , the union of all the self-styled “republican” forces against the extreme right.

After the first round of the legislative elections, on June 12, Macron and his team wavered. In nearly 60 constituencies of the 577 that elect deputies to the National Assembly, a candidate from the far-right National Regrouping (RN) party, led by Marine Le Pen, and another from the New Popular Ecological and Social Union (NUPES) qualified. ), the left-wing coalition under the command of the eurosceptic and anti-capitalist Mélenchon.

Everyone was waiting for the vote slogan of the macronistas, who came to power five years ago presenting themselves as the last bastion against the extreme right. The slogan was expected to be to vote for candidates who oppose the extreme right.

But on Sunday, after the results of the legislative elections were known, there were a few hours of confusion. At the closing of the schools, the prime minister, Élisabeth Borne, seemed to equate the extreme right and the radical left when she declared: “In the face of extremes, we will not give in on anything. Neither to one side nor to the other.” Shortly after, it was leaked that the slogan was that there would be no slogan: it would be decided “case by case”.

Before the end of election night, the Government and Ensemble (Together) — the name of Macron’s candidacy — corrected the shot. “Let’s be clear: not a single vote should go to the National Rally,” said government spokeswoman Olivia Grégoire.

Ambiguity

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The formula is traced to the one Mélenchon used in April after Macron and Le Pen qualified for the second round of the presidential elections: “Not one vote for Mrs. Le Pen.” The leftist leader reiterated on Monday in a television interview: “The position of NUPES is that we do not vote for the National Front.” He also called Le Pen voters “angry” at Macron to vote for NUPES.

Mélenchon, when he gave this slogan in the presidential elections in April and before in 2017, was accused of ambiguity and of weakening the cordon sanitaire, a method aimed at isolating the ultras and considered a model in other countries where the extreme right rises.

Now it is Macron who receives the criticism. Because the “not a vote for Le Pen” literally means that one can abstain or vote blank, which represents a peculiar way of curb to the extreme right.

Macronism has been debating for two days what the slogan and the Republican front mean. Something unusual is happening among Macron’s disciplined ministers and deputies: the disparate sensibilities that make up this movement, from progressives to conservatives, are surfacing in public.

“I have never put the NUPES and the National Regrouping on an equal footing,” said the Minister for Europe, Clément Beaune, identified with the social democratic wing of Macronism, on the same election night. He made it clear: in the event of a duel between NUPES and Le Pen, you have to vote for the mélenchonist.

In a contrary position, Alexandrine Pintus, an Ensemble candidate in the northern French district where Le Pen herself will compete for the seat with Marine Tondelier, an environmentalist from NUPES, declared after being eliminated: “I will vote blank”.

The Prime Minister, Borne, reiterated on Monday that the slogan was “no vote for the National Front”, but provided some clarifications. “If a NUPES candidate does not respect republican values, insults the policemen, asks to stop supporting Ukraine and wants to leave Europe, we will not call for a vote for him,” she said. “If a NUPES candidate respects Republican values, we will support him.”

Borne, with this distinction, tries to put his finger on the sore spot: the deep differences between the multiple lefts integrated in NUPES. On the one hand, the left, which in recent years has demonstrated alongside Islamists against Islamophobia, has said —like Mélenchon a few days ago— that “the police kill”, has been complacent with the Russia of Vladimir Putin or advocates “ withdrawal from the EU treaties. On the other, the socialists and ecologists who have reluctantly adhered to the alliance with Mélenchon.

What explains Macron’s difficulties in defining a line on the Republican front is that, unlike in the presidential elections, in the legislative elections the rival is no longer Le Pen, third in the first round and who, at most, aspires to a few dozen of deputies. It is Mélenchon, whose candidacy, according to the polls, will be the first opposition force.

If Macron strictly applied the principle of the Republican front, he would be contributing to the election of more NUPES deputies and perhaps to his own defeat. The other, ideological explanation is that a part of Macronism and the right considers that, due to his positions on Putin, Islamism or the forces of order, Mélenchon is as dangerous for the Republic as Le Pen and, therefore, he also deserves a cordon sanitaire.

This is how Macron’s statement can be understood this Tuesday at Orly airport before taking off for Moldova and Romania: “On Sunday, let there be no lack of votes for the Republic.” I mean, for him.

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