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Poll: France’s far-right party is on a path to win snap parliamentary elections

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Polls predict that France's far-right National Rally Party is on a path to win the snap parliamentary elections called by President Emmanuel Macron. Voting in two rounds takes place on June 30 and July 7. Jean-Yves Camus gave me a preview of the stakes at hand. He's a political analyst at the French think tank IRIS in Paris and started by telling me a bit about the origins of the far right in France.

JEAN-YVES CAMUS: Jean-Marie Le Pen decided to launch an extreme-right political party, which gained some strength, eventually passing the 10% threshold for the first time in 1984. And then the party grew out of the discontent of a significant segment of the French electorate. And now it's the first opposition force to President Macron.

FADEL: Now, you say it grew from the discontent of voters. How did the far right gain so much power in recent years?

CAMUS: Because the voters are not happy with the successive social democratic and mainstream conservative governments. They feel that the economy now is not good, employment is not good, inflation is high. And we also have a huge problem with immigration and national identity. France is not a multicultural country. And what we have seen is an influx of our population, both refugees and immigrants coming from our former colonies in Africa and many refugees from the Middle East. Some of them did not adjust to our way of life. We also had many terror attacks from Islamist militant groups since 2015, especially. So many people are now saying we need a huge reform of the immigration policy. And there's also a law and order issue. I mean, crime is quite high.

FADEL: You said France is not a multicultural society. What do you mean?

CAMUS: For example, I'm sitting right here in my office, and I am a government servant, and I'm also an Orthodox Jew. I'm not allowed to wear my kippah, for example, in my office. I'm not allowed to show any side of my belonging to the Jewish community while I am on duty. You cannot take away from you such an important part of your personal life. And it's the same for Muslims.

FADEL: The leader of the far-right National Rally Party, Jordan Bardella, said this week that he wouldn't govern without an absolute majority. Here he is speaking on public TV.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JORDAN BARDELLA: (Speaking French).

CAMUS: Well, Bardella is realistic. If his party doesn't get an absolute majority, he will not be able to pass legislation on immigration and national identity that is really the core of his agenda. On the other hand, I've never seen a man who is proposed for prime minister and who says, no thanks, Mr. President. I do not want to take the job because I have a very small majority. So I think that anyway if National Rally comes ahead, he will take the job. The other possibility is that Macron will name a prime minister from outside of the political spectrum, like a technical government of high civil servants and people from civil society.

FADEL: Now, France is not unique in seeing a growing far right. It's happening in other European countries. It's happening in the United States. You talked about isolationist policies. I mean, does it change really Western allyship, relationships and the global order?

CAMUS: If the far right continues to rise in Europe, that will basically mean many of the policies of the EU will not be enforced, especially the grandeur (ph) will suffer a great blow and also our support for the Ukrainian people and the Ukrainian government. And besides as that also means an immigration policy that will try to protect our borders from non-European immigrants coming to our shores. But anyway, is it realistic to say Europe will be like a fortress, and we will build some kind of a fence all around Europe so that non-European immigrants cannot enter? It's not.

FADEL: That's Jean-Yves Camus. He's a political analyst at the French think tank IRIS in Paris. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.
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