Dov Maimon

Who will protect France’s Jews?

After the first round of the latest elections, the country may be heading toward an ungovernable future
Leader of the French far-right National Rally Marine Le Pen, left, and lead candidate of the party for the European election Jordan Bardella during a political meeting on June 2, 2024 in Paris. (AP Photo/Thomas Padilla)
Leader of the French far-right National Rally Marine Le Pen, left, and lead candidate of the party for the European election Jordan Bardella during a political meeting on June 2, 2024 in Paris. (AP Photo/Thomas Padilla)

As initial results of Sunday’s first round of general elections emerge, the broader landscape of French politics is growing increasingly bleak, potentially rendering France ungovernable. Despite dissolving the National Assembly following a resounding defeat in the recent European Parliament elections three weeks ago, it appears President Emmanuel Macron has metaphorically dissolved himself, as surely as sugar in tea.

The National Rally (RN), a far-right nationalist party led by Marine Le Pen, garnered approximately 32% of the valid votes in the European Parliament elections and has strengthened its position this time with 34% and 12 million voters in a context of increased voter turnout, around 68% – a 40-year high. They are followed by the New Popular Front (a coalition of left-wing parties, ranging from center-left to far-left elements that are anti-Zionist and antisemitic) with 29% of the provisional estimates. Macron’s Renaissance party’s majority has plummeted to 22%. The traditional right, which regularly held power until 2012, has become all but insignificant.

The French electoral system makes it difficult to forecast the final composition of the new National Assembly before the second round of elections, to be held on July 7. Vying for its 577 seats, at least 300 candidates will face three-way elections, as any candidate with a minimum of 12.5% of the total registered voters in his or her constituency qualifies to compete in the second round next Sunday.

The New Popular Front, as well as most parties from the outgoing presidential majority, have announced they would withdraw from any race where they are ranked third, to give the second candidate, whether from the outgoing presidential majority or the New Popular Front, a better chance. “All against the National Rally” has become the new slogan. As it stands, the National Rally will likely become the largest party in terms of seats, nearing the absolute majority threshold of 289, though not enough to form a government solely under Le Pen’s protégé, 28-year-old Jordan Bardella, as prime minister.

Three blocs will share the pie, but the pro-Hamas, neo-Marxist New Popular Front will struggle to ally with the diminished free-market presidential majority, and even, if possible, they will likely not surpass the 289-seat threshold. As for the traditional right-wing Republicans, they could only ally with the National Rally to form a government. Unfortunately, its president led a coup d’état a few weeks ago and has already allied with the National Rally; the remaining members have pledged an independent strategy, rendering them ineffective. Ironically, the electoral system designed by Charles de Gaulle to ensure that the party of the French president always obtains an absolute majority no longer fulfills its constitutional duty of political stabilization.

What comes next? President Macron is constitutionally barred from dissolving the National Assembly again for the next 12 months. He may still resign, but he has already announced that he will not. What other options are available? Perhaps the drastic measure of invoking Article 16 of the constitution, which transfers legislative power from parliament to the president, subject only to minimal oversight from the Constitutional Council and conditioned upon a presidential address to the nation. This measure, used only once in 1961 by a WWII hero against a mutiny in French Algeria opposed to decolonization, seems far-fetched; not everyone is de Gaulle. France appears doomed to instability, and the glorious heritage of its constitution is vanishing.

Additionally, the current French context does not facilitate resolution. The far left has held the Palestinian flag in lieu of the French one and endorsed a neo-Marxist economic program – as if the 3 trillion euros of national debt were trivial. President Macron, a pro-free market Europeanist, has been unable to solve France’s economic problems, ensure safety in the streets, and halt invasive Muslim immigration. The National Rally, which has firmly supported Israel and opposed antisemitism (mainly imported by Muslim immigration and exacerbated after October 7), has sought respectability after years of vilification by the left, including the pro-Hamas far left.

However, it will not promote any radical reform to address the debt issue; on the contrary, it strongly supports a financially draining welfare state. Finally, massive violent and destructive protests, sponsored by the far-left Disobedient France party and led by the Palestinian flag, are promised if the National Rally wins. With the Olympics in the capital, the Tour de France, and the indigenous rebellion in French New Caledonia, will the state be able to prevent massive riots, unlike in July 2023? Back then, Jewish shops were targeted. Now that Gaza has become a rallying cry against Jews and Israel, who will protect French Jews this time?

About the Author
Dr. Dov Maimon is a Senior Fellow at the Jewish People Policy Institute. An agricultural engineer and expert on Jewish thought by training, he coordinates JPPI's activity on sustainability and the climate crisis.
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