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France’s conservative leader calls for pact with far right

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The leader of France’s centre-right party has called for an electoral alliance with the far-right Rassemblement National ahead of snap legislative elections on June 30 that have rattled financial markets.

A pact would boost the chances of RN securing an absolute majority in the election called by President Emmanuel Macron in a shock move on Sunday.

Éric Ciotti, leader of the centre-right Les Républicains (LR), said his party needed to strike “an alliance with the RN, its candidates, with all those who identify with ideas of the right, with the values of the right”.

“I want my political family to move in this direction,” Ciotti added, calling for a force to oppose the “impotence of Macronism” and the threat from the far left.

Marine Le Pen, the far-right leader, said Ciotti had made a “courageous choice” and hailed his “sense of responsibility”.

The move is a blow to Macron’s hopes of forming a united front with the forces of the centre-left and centre-right to take on RN.

Leftwing parties have already thrashed out a preliminary pact to run a single list of candidates — including the Socialists, the Communists, the Greens and the far-left France Unbowed party, but not the president’s centrist alliance.

Investors sold French stocks for a second consecutive day on Tuesday, as markets digested the possibility that RN, which advocates tens of billions of euros of extra public spending, could take or share power following the elections.

French stocks in the Cac 40 have fallen 2.7 per cent this week, their biggest two-day decline since July 2023.

Other senior members of LR immediately rejected Ciotti’s call, suggesting the party, which has been divided on how closely to co-operate with the far right, could disintegrate in the run-up to the election.

“Following Éric Ciotti’s comments, I believe he can no longer lead our movement and must resign as chair of the party,” said Gérard Larcher, president of the Senate and a senior LR figure.

Michel Barnier, another senior figure within the Républicains and the EU’s former Brexit negotiator, also called on his party to refuse a far-right alliance. “Never, never can an alliance or pact with a populist and anti-European country be the solution,” Barnier said on X.

Macron’s allies also attacked the conservative leader’s move.

“Éric Ciotti is signing a Munich agreement and is plunging the Gaullist family in dishonour,” Gérald Darmanin, interior minister, said on X in reference to the 1938 accords France and Britain struck with Nazi Germany.

“The shame of it. People of France, wake up!”

Macron’s unexpected decision to call a snap election, to be held in two rounds on June 30 and July 7, followed his party’s drubbing in European elections on Sunday by RN, which echoed success for the far right elsewhere in Europe.

The RN’s leader and Le Pen protégé, 28-year-old Jordan Bardella, has also reached out to members of another far-right group, meeting with lawmaker Marion Maréchal on Monday to discuss options. Maréchal, Le Pen’s niece, left her aunt’s party to join far-right rival Reconquête.

“I’ve had a number of discussions with people who are not from my political family,” Bardella told RTL radio on Tuesday, adding that these included senior Républicains figures who were keen to join him.

If just half of LR’s 57 MPs allied with RN, the far right could be on the cusp of an absolute majority, which requires 289 seats. A Toluna Harris Interactive poll forecast the RN could win between 235 and 265 seats.

Tuesday’s market moves came after the Europe 1 radio station reported that Macron had discussed resigning if he suffered another heavy defeat in the two-round election to parliament.

A person close to the president said the rumours were unfounded.

Macron has pushed back a press conference planned for Tuesday until Wednesday.

Additional reporting by Harriet Clarfelt in New York and Leila Abboud in Paris

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