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French opposition parties scramble to reach deals to beat the far right in Sunday's poll

FRENCH opposition parties scrambled to reach deals today to try to prevent a victory for Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally in Sunday’s second round of legislative elections.

The National Rally, under party president Jordan Bardella, secured the most votes in the first round of the snap legislative elections on June 30, but not enough to claim an overall victory that would allow the formation of France’s first far-right government since World War II.

An unprecedented number of candidates from the New Popular Front left-wing alliance and from President Emmanuel Macron’s weakened governing party who qualified for round two have stepped aside in favour of the contender most likely to beat the National Rally. 

Several cabinet ministers were among those who pulled out in a bid to ensure the far-right’s defeat.

According to a count by French newspaper Le Monde, some 218 candidates supposed to compete in the second round have pulled out. Of them, 130 were on the left and 82 came from the Macron-led alliance Ensemble. 

“We have one objective today: to deny an absolute majority to the National Rally,” said Francois Ruffin of the left-wing France Unbowed party, which forms part of the New Popular Front alliance along with the French greens, the communists and the Socialist Party.

Prime Minister Gabriel Attal said: “I need to prevent the National Rally from achieving an absolute majority in the National Assembly because it would be — and I say it from the bottom of my gut — it would be terrible for the country and the French.”

Meanwhile, Ms Le Pen told France Inter radio on Tuesday: “We cannot accept going into government if we cannot act. It would be the worst betrayal of our voters.”

However, she added: “If we have, say, 270 deputies, we need 19 more, we will go to others and ask them if they are ready to participate with us in a new majority.”

Mr Macron dissolved the National Assembly on June 9 and called the snap election after a stinging defeat at the hands of the National Rally in European Parliament elections. 

But the president is now accused, even by members of his own camp, of opening a door to a National Rally government by calling voters back to the ballot box, especially when so many are angry over inflation, the cost of living and immigration.

He has warned that a far-right victory could set France on a path to a civil war.

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