Attal to resign as leftist coalition crushes Macron’s ruling party

This morning's top world news, in a nutshell - Monday, 8th July 2024.

French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal announced his resignation on Monday, affirming his commitment to continue fulfilling his duties until a successor is appointed, quoting the imminent Paris Olympics as a critical obligation, France 24 reported.

Initial projections from Sunday’s vote indicated that the NFP had secured a plurality but fell short of an absolute majority, leaving Macron’s ruling party trailing in second place and the right-wing National Rally in third. The projected final seat distribution is expected to be: NPF – New Popular Front: between 187 and 198 seats; ENS – Ensemble (Together): 161-169; LR – Republicans: 63; RN – National Rally:135-143; Others: 15.

Prime Minister Attal, however, said that, if his resignation is refused, he was ready to remain in office “as long as duty demands” given that the Paris Olympics are due to begin on July 26.

“Since the beginning of this campaign, I have alerted against three risks: the one of an absolute majority of the [left-wing] France Insoumise party, the risk of an absolute majority of the National Rally, the risk of the disappearance of the movement that embodies our values and principle,” the French PM said in his resignation speech. “Those three risks have been completely marginalised by the French people,” he added.

“Tonight there is no absolute majority that will be led by the far right. I believe in this French spirit that is deeply rooted and committed to the spirit of the Republic,” Attal said, adding, “Being the Prime Minister was the honour of my life.”

The election results marked a significant shift in French politics, with the National Rally, led by Jordan Bardella, claiming substantial gains despite initial high expectations. He criticised Macron for purportedly “pushing France into uncertainty and instability” and expressed disappointment at falling short of projected outcomes despite an increase in parliamentary seats.

The NFP’s unexpected triumph was met with jubilation among its supporters. Socialist leader Olivier Faure emphasised the coalition’s mandate, pledging to repeal Macron’s contentious pension reforms and unify under the NFP’s agenda. “We will have just one compass: the programme of the New Popular Front,” Faure asserted confidently.
Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk echoed sentiments of satisfaction following the electoral outcome, suggesting implications beyond French borders. “In Paris enthusiasm, in Moscow disappointment, in Kyiv relief. Enough to be happy in Warsaw,” Tusk said in a post on X.

The electoral process was marked by strategic withdrawals among candidates from various parties, aiming to consolidate votes against National Rally contenders in the run-off. This tactical manoeuvring underscored the high stakes of the election, aiming to prevent a sweeping victory by the far-right party, as reported by France 24.

Turnout in the legislative run-off in France is confirmed at record levels: according to data from the Ministry of the Interior, at 5pm, 59.71 per cent of those entitled to vote did so, compared to 59.39 per cent a week ago.

Public reactions were diverse and impassioned. In Paris, crowds gathered at the Place de la Republique, chanting slogans against fascism in response to the election results. The atmosphere reflected both celebration among leftist supporters and concern over the implications of a hung parliament for French governance.

Macron’s decision to dissolve parliament and call for snap elections followed a defeat in the European Parliament elections by the National Rally. The subsequent formation of the NFP, uniting disparate leftist factions, emerged as a strategic response to the changing political landscape and a bid to consolidate support against right-wing advances.
The implications of the election outcome extend beyond domestic politics, potentially impacting European solidarity, diplomatic relations, and economic stability within the EU. Analysts foresee a period of uncertainty as France navigates a divided parliament and recalibrates its policy direction under the new political dynamics.

The election results will have ramifications for European backing of Ukraine’s defence, global diplomatic relations, and the economic stability of the EU. Additionally, they could potentially diminish Macron’s influence for the remainder of his presidential term – if he does not elect to resign.

Initial projections were released at 8pm, with official results anticipated to be announced Monday, France 24 reported.

Macron will ‘wait’ to make decision about new government

President Macron will ‘wait’ to make decisions about a new government, according to a statement from the Élysée Palace, following the announcement of preliminary results from the second round of parliamentary elections.

“In his role as guarantor of our institutions, the president will ensure that the sovereign choice of the French people is respected,” the Élysée said. “In keeping with republican tradition, he will await the structuring of the new National Assembly before taking the necessary decisions,” it added, noting Macron’s careful consideration of unfolding results.

Macron’s current focus is on analysing the election outcome and is waiting for the full picture in parliament to emerge before making any decisions, the French presidency said on Sunday.

The unexpected success of the New Popular Front in the parliamentary run-off positions them as the leading force, although falling short of an outright majority. This outcome reflects ongoing political volatility in France, with no single coalition commanding sufficient seats to govern independently.

Prominent French Jews decry far-left’s gains in vote

Prominent French Jews lament the electoral success of a political bloc that features a far-left party widely regarded as anti-semitic in the country’s parliamentary elections.

This reaction is in response to news that the New Popular Front, which includes the Socialist Party and the France Unbowed far-left party, or LFI, garnered the highest share of the vote in Sunday’s final round, with 175 to 205 seats according to a preliminary count, followed by the Ensemble! party of President Emmanuel Macron (150 to 175) and then the far-right National Rally (115-150).

Moshe Sebbag, a rabbi for the Synagogue de la Victoire, tells The Times of Israel that “it seems France has no future for Jews.” He advises young French Jews to leave for Israel.

“But people my age, who are 50, 60, we’ve made our life here and we fear for the future of our children,” he says. His assessment is not due solely to the left-wing bloc’s success, but to the mainstreaming of anti-semitism in general in France, he says.

“The left is once again kidnapped by the infamous Melenchon. Divisive language. Hate of the republic on the lips. Around him, right now, are some incarnations of the new anti-semitism. A chilling moment. A stain: continue to fight against these people,” French-Jewish philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy writes on X.

Jean-Luc Melenchon is the leader of LFI, and in a 2017 speech called French Jews “an arrogant minority that lectures to the rest”. He is on record, in an earlier speech, as celebrating anti-Israel protesters, days after some of them stormed a synagogue, condemning in that speech only French Jews who demonstrated to show solidarity with Israel.

“Melenchon’s victory is a terrible signal of impunity sent to the anti-Jewish Islamo-Faschists,” writes French-Jewish journalist Yohann Taieb on X.

The elections do not necessarily affect Macron’s presidency, but may make it more difficult to pass legislation and some executive actions.

Pope Francis warns of ‘populists’ and ailing democracy

The leader of the Catholic Church is concerned about the worldwide state of democracy. Pope Francis is wary of “ideological temptations and populists” as the far-right makes gains in France, the Netherlands and elsewhere. He lamented the state of democracy around the world on Sunday during a visit to the northeastern Italian city of Trieste.

“Democracy is not in good health in the world today,” Francis said during a Catholic event that focuses on social issues. Speaking to a group of around 1,200 people, he urged citizens to take part in voting and other forms of democracy.

“Democracy demands that conditions are created so that everyone can express themselves,” Francis maintained. “We cannot be satisfied with a private faith,” the 87-year-old said. “This means having the courage to make proposals for justice and peace in public debates.”

Pope Francis cautioned against “ideological temptations and populists”, without mentioning any country in particular. “Ideologies are seductive. Some people compare them to the Pied Piper of Hamelin: they seduce but lead you to deny yourself,” Francis said, alluding to a German children’s legend. The phrase “pied piper” is commonly used to mean someone who gains popularity through false promises.

His remarks come on the same day as French parliamentary elections where the far-right was expected to make big gains. The far-right surged in European elections last month, with conservative hardliners also winning big in Dutch elections this past November.

Orbán announces his arrival in China

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán announced that he had arrived in China this morning. “Peace Mission 3.0”, he wrote on his X profile, posting a photo of him arriving by plane in Beijing. In the image, Orbán is welcomed at the airport by Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying. The Beijing ministry declared for its part that the Hungarian prime minister, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the EU, will meet Chinese president Xi Jinping today to discuss “matters of mutual interest”.

Copernicus: it was the hottest June ever

Last month was the warmest June on record globally, according to Europe’s Copernicus climate programme. This is the 13th consecutive month of monthly heat records being broken, underlines the Copernicus climate change service.

We are faced with “something more than a statistical oddity and which highlights a large and continuous change in our climate,” says the director of the service Carlo Buontempo. This will be “inevitable” as long as humanity continues to add heat-trapping gases to the atmosphere, he adds.

The average global temperature in the last 12 months is the highest ever recorded, according to Copernicus: it was 1.64 degrees higher than the pre-industrial average of the period 1850-1900, when deforestation and the use of fossil fuels had not yet contributed to warming the Earth’s climate.

Netanyahu issues list of ‘non-negotiable’ demands

Ahead of the Israeli negotiating team’s departure for further hostage deal talks in Cairo and Doha later this week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presented a list on Sunday evening of what he said were “non-negotiable Israeli demands”, including a guarantee that Israel could resume fighting, which would need to be met in the event of a hostage release and ceasefire deal with Hamas.

Netanyahu’s statement, at a crucial phase ahead of the resumption of talks, sparked anger, both in Israel and among mediators, with some accusing him of attempting to sabotage hard-won progress.

The renewed negotiations in both Egypt and Qatar come after Hamas said on Saturday that it was ready to discuss a hostage deal and an end to the war in Gaza without an upfront commitment by Israel to a “complete and permanent ceasefire” – breaking from the position it has held in all previous negotiations since November.

The list of four demands presented by the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office declared, first, that any potential deal must “allow Israel to return and fight until all the goals of the war are achieved”. In addition, the statement read, it must be ensured that the deal will not allow for the smuggling of weapons from Egypt into Gaza, and nor can it allow for “the return of thousands of armed terrorists to the north of the Gaza Strip”. Finally, the statement added, “Israel will maximize the number of live abductees that are released from Hamas captivity.”

“The plan that has been agreed to by Israel and which has been welcomed by President Biden will allow Israel to return hostages without infringing on the other objectives of the war,” the statement also declared.
Iraqi Islamic resistance fighters vow to join Hezbollah in new war

The Islamic Resistance in Iraq, an umbrella group of anti-terror fighters, has declared its readiness to confront Israel and the United States if a new war breaks out in Lebanon. A field commander has stated there will be ‘escalation for escalation’ in response to any military aggression against Lebanon. The group has already sent experts and advisors to Lebanon, highlighting the seriousness of their stance.

Four senior House Democrats say Biden should leave presidential race

Several senior House Democrats said Sunday that President Biden should end his re-election campaign in the wake of his recent debate performance, multiple people tell CBS News.

Reps. Jerry Nadler of New York, Mark Takano of California, Adam Smith of Washington and Joe Morelle of New York said Sunday during a Zoom meeting with House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries that Biden should leave the race, according to persons familiar with the meeting.

Reps. Jim Himes of Connecticut, Don Beyer of Virginia and Jamie Raskin of Maryland also expressed skepticism of the president’s electoral chances. Beyer’s office on Sunday reaffirmed his support for Biden, despite initial reports suggesting that he was part of the group calling on the president to step aside.

After news of the call was published, Beyer also issued a statement saying he supported Biden. “I support the Biden-Harris ticket, and look forward to helping defeat Donald Trump in November,” Beyer said. “I was proud to host an event this week in Northern Virginia with the President, and will continue doing all I can to support the Biden-Harris campaign in Virginia and across the country.”

Meanwhile, President Biden has appeared defiant in recent days, making clear that he plans to stay in the race despite concern from some members of his party. When asked during an interview with ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos on Friday whether he would step down if there were calls from the party’s leaders in Congress, Biden brushed the question aside, saying “they’re not going to do that”. “If the Lord almighty came down and said ‘Joe, get out of the race’, I’d get out of the race,” the president said. “The Lord almighty’s not coming down!”

Photo: Ludovic Marin | Afp | Getty Images

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