France's Républicains remain divided over support for far-right

After a historic 34% victory for the Rassemblement National in the first round of France’s snap parliamentary elections, the centre-right Républicains (EPP) remain as divided as ever on what to do about the far-right party, declaring that it is not calling for a vote against it in the second round.

While the Rassemblement National (RN) came out on top in the legislative elections on Sunday (30 June) with the help of a section of the right that rallied behind it on the evening of the European elections, the independent fringe of the Républicains only garnered 10% of the vote.

This right-wing group, represented by François Xavier Bellamy, who headed the list for the European elections and is also vice-president of the European People’s Party (EPP), will play a central role in the second round on 7 July.

To obtain an absolute majority in the 577 seat National Assembly, Marine Le Pen’s party, expected to secure between 240 and 270 seats, will need between 19 and 49 MPs.

With 10% of the vote, the Républicains could win between 30 and 50 seats in the National Assembly, according to a recent poll – they had 60 until today. That pool of voters is likely then to be of high political interest.

No voting instructions

While the left-wing alliance Front Populaire (NFP), has already called to block the far right, François-Xavier Bellamy’s party has refused to take part in the traditional “republican front”.

“Where we are not present in the second round, considering that voters are free to make their choice, we do not give national instructions and we let the French express themselves according to their conscience,” the party explained in a statement on Sunday evening.

“The danger facing our country today is the extreme left”, François-Xavier Bellamy added to AFP. Bellamy had already explained before the elections that he would vote for the Rassemblement National in the event of a duel with the far left.

The German Christian Democratic Union (CDU), an ally of the Républicains in the European Parliament’s centre-right grouping, has already threatened to expel them from the EPP in the event of an alliance with the far right.

It remains to be seen how the 10% of voters on the right will behave in the second round, when a choice has to be made between the far left, the far right or the centre. Will they follow some Républicain cadres in supporting the Rassemblement National, or will they stand in the way?

In any case, they could well tip parliament one way or the other on 7 July.

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