Macron Seeks Alliance against France’s Far Right; Republicans Ditch Party Chief

 French President Emmanuel Macron speaks during a press conference about the priorities of his Renaissance party and its allies ahead of the early legislative elections in Paris, France, June 12, 2024. (Reuters)
French President Emmanuel Macron speaks during a press conference about the priorities of his Renaissance party and its allies ahead of the early legislative elections in Paris, France, June 12, 2024. (Reuters)
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Macron Seeks Alliance against France’s Far Right; Republicans Ditch Party Chief

 French President Emmanuel Macron speaks during a press conference about the priorities of his Renaissance party and its allies ahead of the early legislative elections in Paris, France, June 12, 2024. (Reuters)
French President Emmanuel Macron speaks during a press conference about the priorities of his Renaissance party and its allies ahead of the early legislative elections in Paris, France, June 12, 2024. (Reuters)

French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday urged rival parties to join his electoral alliance against Marine Le Pen's far-right National Rally, while the conservative Republicans ditched their party chief for seeking a far-right pact.

The fast-moving political developments came after Macron's shock decision to call a snap parliamentary election in a few weeks. The vote could hand real power to Le Pen's party after years on the sidelines.

In what amounted to a campaign speech, Macron on Wednesday defended his decision to call the snap vote, and urged parties on both sides of the political center to join him in the battle against the hard right in the June 30 and July 7 elections.

Macron, who ruled out quitting if his ruling alliance loses, called on "our compatriots and political leaders who do not recognize themselves in the extremist fever" to "build a new project ... a coalition to govern."

In a sign of the political chaos that Macron's decision has unleashed, the Republicans party leadership on Wednesday decided to kick out their party chief Eric Ciotti after he appealed for an electoral alliance between his party's candidates and the National Rally, known as RN.

Macron described such an accord as a "deal with the devil". It would have ended the decades-long mainstream political consensus to block the far-right from power.

Writing on X, Ciotti said the Republicans meeting had not followed protocol: "I am and remain the president of our political party, elected by the members!"

POLITICAL CRISIS

Macron called the election on Sunday after the anti-immigration, euroskeptic RN came out on top in a vote for the European Parliament.

The RN is expected to win 31% of votes in the first round national vote on June 30, while a left-wing alliance would get 28%, an Elabe poll on Wednesday showed. Macron's ticket is seen clinching 18%.

In a new twist, Marion Marechal, an ally of Eric Zemmour and his smaller far-right party Reconquest, on Wednesday urged her followers to vote for the RN.

Marechal is far-right leader Marine Le Pen's niece and used to be a prominent member of her party before they fell out.

Political commentators say the battle between the far right and left will determine who comes out on top in the legislative election, which will be decided in the second round on July 7.

If the RN were to win a parliamentary majority, Macron would remain president for three more years and direct defense and foreign policy but would lose control over the domestic agenda, including economic policy, security, immigration and finances.

Macron said he had no regrets in calling the snap vote, saying the RN's policies would impoverish workers and retirees.

"I do not want to give the keys to power to the extreme right in 2027, so I fully accept having triggered a movement to provide clarification," he said.

The Macron camp made RN's economic policies its main point of attack, claiming they posed a danger.

Industry Minister Roland Lescure and Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire urged France's top companies to publicly criticize RN. Lescure cited similar efforts by firms like Siemens and BMW against the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party.

French bonds have come under pressure, pushing the yield on the 10-year benchmark to its highest level since November and even higher than lower-rated Portuguese bonds.

"If the National Rally goes ahead with its program... a debt crisis is possible in France, a 'Liz Truss' scenario is possible," Le Maire warned, referring to the tumultuous UK market sell-off under Truss' short-lived premiership in 2022.

Inside his own camp, Macron's election call has been met with gloom among his Renaissance party's rank-and-file.

Edouard Philippe, Macron's former prime minister and a potential successor in the 2027 presidential election, appeared to hint at the dismay among the centrist coalition and questions over how prominent a role Macron should play in the campaign.

"I'm not sure it's entirely healthy for the president of the republic to run a legislative campaign," he said on BFM TV.



UK Borrowing Overshoot Underscores Task for New Government

Larry the Cat sits on Downing Street in London, Britain July 19, 2024. REUTERS/Toby Melville
Larry the Cat sits on Downing Street in London, Britain July 19, 2024. REUTERS/Toby Melville
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UK Borrowing Overshoot Underscores Task for New Government

Larry the Cat sits on Downing Street in London, Britain July 19, 2024. REUTERS/Toby Melville
Larry the Cat sits on Downing Street in London, Britain July 19, 2024. REUTERS/Toby Melville

Britain's government borrowed a lot more than forecast in June, according to official data published on Friday that highlighted the big budget challenges facing the new government of Prime Minister Keir Starmer.
Public sector net borrowing, excluding state-controlled banks, was a larger-than-expected 14.5 billion pounds ($18.75 billion) last month. A Reuters poll of economists had pointed to an increase of 11.5 billion pounds.
Dennis Tatarkov, Senior Economist at KPMG UK, said the data showed "the daunting task" for the new government to fund its agenda without worsening the public finances.
"A combination of high levels of spending and weak growth prospects will present uncomfortable choices – deciding between even more borrowing or substantially raising taxes if spending levels are to be maintained," he said.
New finance minister Rachel Reeves is likely to announce her first budget after parliament's summer recess. She and Starmer have ruled out increases in the rates of income tax, corporation tax and value-added tax, leaving her little room for maneuver to improve public services and boost investment.
Reeves has ordered an immediate review of the new government's "spending inheritance", a move that lawmakers from the opposition Conservative Party say could presage increases in taxes on capital gains or inheritances.
"Today's figures are a clear reminder that this government has inherited the worst economic circumstances since the Second World War, but we’re wasting no time to fix it," Darren Jones, a deputy Treasury minister, said after the data was published.
Starmer's government says it will speed up Britain's slow-moving economy - and generate more tax revenues - via a combination of pro-growth reforms and a return to political stability that will attract investment.
The borrowing figure for June was 2.9 billion pounds higher than expected by Britain's budget watchdog whose forecasts underpin government tax and spending plans.
In the first three months of the financial year which began in April, borrowing was 3.2 billion pounds higher than projected by the Office for Budget Responsibility at 49.8 billion pounds.
The Office for National Statistics said June's borrowing was the lowest for the month since 2019, helped by a big drop in spending on interest paid on bonds linked to inflation which has slowed sharply.
But the deficit was made bigger by a 1.2 billion-pound fall in social security contributions compared with June 2023. They were cut by former Prime Minister Rishi Sunak before the July 4 election that swept Starmer's Labour Party to power.