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Socialist Francois Hollande’s victory in the French presidential election has left France’s centre-right stuck between a rock and a hard place: do they align with the far-right’s Marine Le Pen, get a majority in the national legislature and defeat the Left, or do they risk losing all hold on power by rejecting Le Pen and holding on to their centrist principles?”It’s a trap almost impossible to evade… in both cases you get punished,” Pierre Rousselin, a columnist with Le Figaro, told The New York Times.
While the presidential election is over, we have to remember the upcoming legislature elections in June.
The Socialists and their allies currently have 197 seats, with the non-Socialist left holding another 20. At the moment, the far-right National Front (FN) has no seats.
But if Sarkozy’s centre-right UMP brokers a deal to support FN candidates in areas where they are sure to win, a right-wing coalition could keep the Left from taking control of the lower house of parliament. If this happens, Hollande would have to pick a right-wing prime minister, considerably reducing his political clout, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Without a deal with the FN, experts say UMP party could lose more than a third of its 305 seats in the 577-seat Legislature, possibly splitting up the party. Already, there is talk of a power struggle within the UMP between its current leader, right-leaning Jean-François Copé, and the current prime minister, the more moderate François Fillon.
In the past, both Sarkozy and Copé have rejected the possibility of any deal with Le Pen (a policy followed since Charles de Gaulle formed the UMP’s predecessor after World War II), even if the Socialists won. But the cracks are starting to show. In an interview with the conservative French magazine Valeurs actuelles, Le Pen said she was amenable to discussing election agreements with local UMP candidates, and French Defence Minister Gérard Longuet told RFI radio last week that Le Pen was “someone the [UMP] could speak to.”
In the end, the UMP may have little choice if they want to hold on to legislative power. While more traditional centrists in the party may want to align with the centrist Democratic Movement of François Bayrou (who got about nine per cent of the vote) to isolate the FN, Sarkozy’s hardline rhetoric on EU borders, security and immigration during his campaign, an attempt to poach Le Pen’s far-right voters, seems to have scared off Bayrou and other moderates, according to France24.
But despite apparent feelers from Le Pen, even that might not be an open door. Le Figaro’s Rousselin told the Times:
“…Marine Le Pen is a politician, and she wants to win, and she’s aware that her main adversary is not the left, but the rest of the right, and she is using the left to destroy the right in its current form… The UMP will stay together through the June elections… But what happens afterward will depend on June.”
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