The president Emmanuel Macron prepares to vote in the first round of the legislative elections, in Le Touquet-Paris-Plage, on June 30, 2024.

On the day after his camp’s failure in the first round of the parliamentary elections, Emmanuel Macron invited Prime Minister Gabriel Attal’s government to the Elysée Palace at midday on Monday, July 1. In the Salon Murat, the French president “didn’t seem affected,” according to one participant, even with the far-right Rassemblement National (RN) on the doorstep of power. But some ministers running for seats, notably those among the third-placed candidates who have withdrawn after the first round to help block the RN, were palpably moved, their sobs stifled. “We’ve had happier meetings,” sighed one minister.

The president’s terse declaration on Sunday evening, in which he called for “a broad, clearly democratic and republican front for the second round” against Le Pen’s party, did not prevent rifts within his coalition on the course of action to be taken between now and July 7.

Former prime minister Edouard Philippe, president of the Macron-allied Horizons party, called for “no votes” to be “cast for candidates from the Rassemblement National, nor for those” from the radical left La France Insoumise (LFI). Macron allies François Bayrou, head of the MoDem party, and Yaël Braun-Pivet, the outgoing president of the Assemblée Nationale, called for a case-by-case examination. Prime Minister Gabriel Attal announced “withdrawal” in favor of a candidate “who, like us, defends the values of the Republic” in districts where staying in the race would risk handing a victory to an RN candidate.

Around the table on Monday, ministers Bruno Le Maire (economy), Christophe Béchu (environment), Catherine Vautrin (labor and health) and Olivia Grégoire (business and tourism), all from the right, expressed their support of the “neither RN, nor LFI” approach advocated by Philippe. “The RN is a danger to the Republic, LFI is a danger to the nation,” denounced Philippe. Béchu invited the presidential camp to be “very clear about LFI (…) which appears to the French people to be more dangerous for France than the RN.” Ambivalence, in such circumstances, “can boomerang back on us,” he warned.

Other left-wing ministers, such as Hervé Berville (maritime affairs), Patrice Vergriete (transport) and Fadila Khattabi (disabled persons), supported in “unconditional withdrawal” of third-placed candidates in districts where there is a threat of the RN winning. There are several currents within LFI, they emphasized, urging others in Macron’s camp to separate, among the LFI candidates in the running, the wheat from the chaff. “We’re not a classification yard,” Grégoire replied.

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