Macron angers French left, far right insists no NATO exit

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Paris, June 19 (AFP/APP):President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday faced accusations of transphobia after lashing out at the snap election manifesto of a new left-wing coalition, while the far-right party leader insisted he would not question France’s international commitments including on NATO.

                  With less than two weeks before the first round of polling in the snap elections called by Macron in response to his party’s defeat by the far right in European polls, the president is struggling to make up ground.

                  His ruling alliance is forecast by opinion polls to come only third in the legislative elections on June 30 — followed by a second round 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 awkward “cohabitation” with Macron, although the 28-year-old has insisted he will only accept this if his party and allies win an absolute majority of seats.

                  Visiting a major defence show outside Paris, Bardella insisted that he “doesn’t plan to question the commitments France has made on the international stage” on defence if he takes power.

                  “Our credibility towards our European partners and NATO allies is at stake,” he said at the Eurosatory arms trade show outside Paris, moderating 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 she were elected, France would quit NATO’s integrated command in the name of “independence”.

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

                  – ‘Reject stigmatisation’ –

                  The emergence of the New Popular Front, which groups left-wingers from Socialists to Communists, has been an unwelcome development for Macron since he called the snap elections in the hope of rallying moderates across the spectrum.

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

                  “They see well what is on offer. The RN and its allies offer things which may make people happy but in the end we are talking 100 billion (euros) a year,” he said.

                  “And on the other side, with the extreme left it’s four times worse — there is no more secularism, they will go back on the immigration law and there are things that are completely farcical like changing your gender at the town hall,” he added.

                  The left-wing coalition’s programme includes a proposal allowing the change of civil status.

                  LFI lawmaker Andy Kerbrat told gay magazine Tetu this week that changing gender would be possible by filing a request at the town hall.

                  Macron’s remarks appeared to cause disquiet even in the ranks of his own ruling Renaissance party.

                  “For trans people, for LGBT people, for everyone… we must reject all stigmatisation in political discourse and advance rights,” Renaissance member of parliament Clement Beaune, who is openly gay, wrote on X.

                  “Emmanuel Macron is using transphobia to attack the programmes of his political opponents,” said Julia Torlet of non-governmental organisation SOS Homophobie.

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

                  – ‘We got Nero’ –

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

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

                  Macron, before he became head of state in 2017, once said France needed a “Jupiterian” presidency in reference to the Roman king of the gods. Nero was one of the Roman emperors most notorious for tyrannical rule.

                  “How is it possible that this man who was elected and re-elected to confront the extreme right is in reality repeating the discourse of the extreme right?” Faure told RTL.

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

                  “I sense a bit of febrility,” 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.

                  Multiple voices within Renaissance have encouraged the president to keep a lower profile.