Macron Says Extreme Opposition Parties Would Cause Civil War

Macron Says Extreme Opposition Parties Would Cause Civil War

(Bloomberg) — President Emmanuel Macron said the agendas of the far-right and far-left blocs in France’s upcoming legislative elections pit the country’s people against each other, going so far as to say that “extreme” parties could spark a “civil war.”

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The far-right National Rally’s plan to deal with crime and insecurity “refers to people of a religion or an origin — it divides and it leads to civil war,” Macron said in an interview with a Génération Do It Yourself podcast aired Monday evening. The far-left France Unbowed that’s part of a hastily cobbled alliance is also peddling sectarian politics that would provoke similar hostilities, he said.

The increasingly strident comments from Macron’s camp reflect a last-ditch attempt to woo voters as his centrist party trails behind the National Rally and the leftist New Popular Front in the polls with less than a week before the first round of voting. One pollster even suggested the far-right party could clinch an absolute majority in the National Assembly, though France’s two-round voting system makes forecasting tricky.

In the days after Macron’s surprise call for an election to renew the National Assembly two weeks ago, his allies have taken to the air waves to speak of the dangers of the far right or the far left coming into power. Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire has said a government by Marine Le Pen’s National Rally would harm “civil peace,” without providing any evidence to support his claim. He has also warned that both the far-right and the left would be disastrous for the economy.

Opposition parties have accused Macron and his allies of fear mongering to spook voters. The head of the French Unbowed party, Jean-Luc Melenchon, on Monday rejected Macron’s “civil war” comment, saying it’s the president who tends to divide the French.

“He’s always around when it comes to setting fires,” he said, alluding to recent political tensions in France’s overseas territory of New Caledonia.

Comments from Macron’s party have done little to halt the rise of the National Rally and the alliance of the left in the polls. Le Pen’s party would win the first round of the French legislative election with 36%, according to latest Ifop-Fiducial poll of voting intentions published Monday. The alliance of left-wing parties would get 29.5%, while Macron’s group would get 20.5%.

Investors dumped French assets in the days after Macron’s call for the vote, fretting over how a new government could further stretch the country’s budget deficit. The turmoil pushed the risk premium on French bonds versus German ones to the highest since 2012 last week, though that spread narrowed slightly on Monday.

The first round of the election is set for June 30, with the second round slated for July 7. Macron, who called for the vote after his party was crushed in the European Parliament election, seemed to acknowledge in the podcast that his group may face a loss in the ballot.

National Rally leader Jordan Bardella has been working to assuage voters that he can be trusted overseeing the country’s economy.

On Monday, he outlined the party’s plan to pay for a reduction in sales tax on energy and fuel — – which would cost €7 billion ($7.5 billion) a year – by cutting France’s contribution to the EU budget, closing tax advantages for shipping firms and boosting levies on the profits of energy companies.

The National Rally “is the only movement to implement immediately and reasonably the expectations of French people. In three words: we are ready,” he said. “We aim to bring the country back to budgetary reason.”

Most pollsters predict that the National Rally will form the largest group in the National Assembly but fall short of the 289 seats needed for an absolute majority. The latest survey by Odoxa predicts the party will get between 250 to 300 seats.

This scenario — where National Rally wins the most seats in the legislature but falls short of an absolute majority — would likely inflict gridlock on the lower house, meaning any ambitious legislation or reform would be difficult to pass.

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Macron justified his call for a vote, saying there was a lot of seething anger in France and that he wanted the country’s people to have “a voice.”

“It will be nobody’s fault the evening of the second round; it will be the responsibility of the French people,” he said. “For me, it’s not a bet, it’s confidence” in the voters, he added.

(Updates with comment from Melenchon in 5th and 6th paragraphs.)

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