Macron angers the French left, the far right insists that NATO will not leave

PARIS – President Emmanuel Macron faced accusations of transphobia on Wednesday after he lashed out at a new left-wing coalition’s snap election manifesto, while the far-right party leader insisted he was not questioning France’s international commitments, including on NATO would pull. With less than two weeks before the first round of snap elections that Macron called in response to his party’s defeat by the far right in European polls, the president is struggling to make up ground. According to opinion polls, his ruling alliance will only come third in the June 30 parliamentary election – followed by a runoff on July 7 – behind the far-right National Rally (RN) and a new left-wing alliance. This could put RN leader Jordan Bardella in a position to become prime minister in an uneasy “coexistence” with Macron, although the 28-year-old insists he will only accept this if his party and allies win an outright majority of seats. During a visit to a major defense show outside Paris, Bardella stressed that he has “no intention of questioning the defense commitments France has made on the international stage” if he takes power.

“Our credibility vis-à-vis our European partners and NATO allies is at stake,” he said at the Eurosatory arms fair outside Paris, tempering the far right’s historic hostility to the Atlantic alliance.

The RN’s three-time presidential candidate Marine Le Pen said in 2022 that if elected, France would leave NATO’s integrated command in the name of “independence.”

A huge loan the RN received from a Russian bank in 2014 and which it has since repaid became a stick for its opponents to beat the RN with and pointed to the previously warm relationship between Le Pen and the Kremlin.

The rise of the New Popular Front, which groups left-wing parties from socialists to communists, has been an unwelcome development for Macron since he called early elections in the hope of rallying moderates from across the spectrum.

But Macron said on Tuesday during a visit to western France that he had “confidence in the French” not to choose the extremes on the left and right.

“They see clearly what is on offer. The RN and its allies offer things that might make people happy, but at the end of the day we are talking about 100 billion euros a year,” he said.

“And on the other hand, on the far left it is four times worse: there is no more secularism, they will go back to the immigration law and there are things that are completely farcical, like changing your gender at the town hall,” he says. added.

The left coalition’s program includes a proposal that would allow for the change of civil status.

LFI MP Andy Kerbrat told gay magazine Tetu this week that changing gender would be possible by submitting a request to the town hall.

Macron’s comments appeared to cause unrest even within the ranks of his own ruling Renaissance party.

“For transgender people, for LGBT people, for everyone… we must reject all stigmatization in political discourse and promote rights,” Renaissance MP Clement Beaune, who is openly gay, wrote on X.

“Emmanuel Macron uses transphobia to attack the programs of his political opponents,” said Julia Torlet of the non-governmental organization SOS Homophobie.

“The strategy is clear: use minorities in the race for power,” she added.

Macron’s comments also sparked an immediate counterattack from left-wing opponents.

“We were waiting for Jupiter, but we got Nero,” snapped Olivier Faure, leader of the Socialist Party.

Before becoming head of state in 2017, Macron once said France needed a “Jupiterian” presidency, referring to the Roman king of the gods. Nero was one of the Roman emperors most infamous for his tyrannical rule.

“How is it possible that this man, who was elected and re-elected to confront the far right, is actually repeating the discourse of the far right?” Fauré told RTL.

Communist Party head Fabien Roussel told France Info that the comments were a sign that Macron was “losing his nerve.”

“I feel a little feverish,” he said.

The comments marked a rare intervention by Macron in the campaign, which 35-year-old Prime Minister Gabriel Attal is leading for the ruling centrist alliance.

Several voices within the Renaissance have encouraged the president to maintain a lower profile.

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