Far-right leader Jordan Bardella, Socialist leader Olivier Faure and Prime Minister Gabriel Attal take part in a debate in Paris on June 27, 2024.

What will be the fate of foreigners and dual nationals if the far-right Rassemblement National (RN) starts running the government? With three days to go before the first round of parliamentary elections, the subject was one of the most sensitive points of the second televised debate between representatives of the three main political blocs, on Thursday, June 27, on the France 2 channel. The RN’s president Jordan Bardella, Socialist Olivier Faure and Prime Minister Gabriel Attal stood side-by-side during the lively, tense debate. The policies of the RN and the left-wing alliance were the focus of the debate, as if those put forward by the current governing coalition, which currently sits in third place in the polls, were no longer a deciding factor.

The RN’s proposals to exclude dual nationals from certain public jobs set things off. Attal accused Bardella of “stigmatizing 3.5 million French people with dual citizenship.” Representing the Nouveau Front Populaire left-wing alliance, Faure later launched a second salvo. “Not only are you sorting between the French and foreigners, but now you’re sorting between the French,” the Socialist leader scolded. “With the abolition of [the right to citizenship for people born in France], you’re turning back the clock on centuries of French history,” he added.

“What cinema!” laughed Bardella, downplaying the significance of his proposal. “When you’re Russian, sorry, we won’t put you at the head of the French intelligence services,” he gave as an example. Between the RN’s determination to “drastically” reduce immigration and the Socialists’ willingness to regularize “all those who work in France today,” Attal defended a middle way, “welcome less to integrate better,” which is rather far removed from the government’s actual practice over the last few years.

‘Homophobia, I live it’

Immigration, the RN’s favorite topic, was also brought up, albeit in relation to homophobia. It was a strong and unexpected moment. Asked about the fight against discrimination, Attal began by talking about his personal history. “Homophobia, I’ve lived it, I live it. I’m lucky in that I’m very well surrounded. I’ve armored myself,” said the prime minister, recalling the recent opening up of medically assisted procreation (MAP) to all women, not just those in heterosexual relationships. The RN was opposed to that move, but “I won’t call into question any rights,” promised Bardella.

In one of the evening’s rare moments of calm, Faure thanked Attal for being the first prime minister to come out as gay, while also criticizing Macron’s recent remarks against “sex changes at town halls,” calling them transphobic. Bardella then drew a link between homophobia and immigration, pointing to “many neighborhoods” where “it’s not good to be Jewish, homosexual or a woman (…) because we bring in people who reject all forms of difference.”

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