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

French President Emmanuel Macron faced accusations of transphobia on Wednesday after criticizing an election manifesto, while the leader of the far-right RN party vowed to uphold France’s international obligations, including on NATO.

With less than two weeks to go before the first round of early elections that Macron called in response to the far-right abuse of his party in European polls, the president’s party is trailing badly.

Opinion polls predict his governing alliance would 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 see RN leader Jordan Bardella 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 absolute majority of seats.

During a visit to a major defense show outside Paris, Bardella insisted he has “no intention of questioning the defense commitments France has made on the international stage” if he takes power.

He added that France would continue arms supplies to Ukraine under an RN government – ​​although long-range missiles and other weapons that could hit Russian territory would be excluded to “avoid any risk of escalation”.

“Our credibility towards our European partners and NATO allies is at stake,” he said at the Eurosatory arms fair, tempering the far right’s historic hostility to the US-led alliance.

Opponents have long pointed to a huge loan that the RN received from a Russian bank in 2014, which it has since repaid, and to the warm relationship between figurehead Marine Le Pen and the Kremlin.

‘Four times worse’

The rise of the New Popular Front (NFP), 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.

Former conservative Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin gave the left-wing alliance indirect support on Wednesday, saying the priority was to fight the RN in the second round.

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

“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 (euro) a year” ($107 billion) in unbudgeted costs, he said.

Bardella has sought to shore up its economic credibility by softening costly promises, including cutting VAT on energy and fuel.

Prime Minister Gabriel Attal rejected the RN’s position on Wednesday, likening its proposals to an “onion” and calling it an opposition party.

“Every day the program falls away and at the end all that is left are your watery eyes because it is not serious, it is not credible,” he told broadcaster TF1.

The French national debt of 110 percent of GDP – more than three trillion euros – was again in the spotlight on Wednesday when the European Commission opened an excessive deficit procedure against Paris.

Macron had also lashed out at the NFP on Tuesday, charging that “it is four times worse on the far left” than on the far right.

“There is no more secularism, they will come back to the immigration bill and there are things that are completely farcical, like changing your gender at the town hall,” he said.

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

Anti-discrimination groups rejected the comments, with SOS Homophobie accusing the president of “transphobia”.

“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?” Socialist Party Chief Olivier Faure told the RTL radio network.

‘Plague of anti-Semitism’

The fight against anti-Semitism was at the center of the campaign on Wednesday after two 13-year-old boys were accused of the rape motivated by anti-Semitism of a 12-year-old Jewish girl outside Paris.

Macron told a cabinet meeting that the “scourge of anti-Semitism” was threatening French schools and called for “dialogue” on racism and Jew-hatred in classrooms.

France saw a wave of anti-Semitic acts after Hamas’ October 7 attack on southern Israel and the start of Israel’s retaliatory campaign in Gaza.

Far-left LFI’s former presidential candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon, who is strongly pro-Palestinian and regularly accused of anti-Semitism by opponents including Macron, tweeted that he was “shocked” by the attack.

Meanwhile, Marine Le Pen – whose party was co-founded by a former member of the Nazi paramilitary Waffen-SS – said the gang rape “revolts us” and accused the “far left” of exploiting the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for political purposes to use.

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