Macron refuses Prime Minister Attal’s resignation

This morning's top world news, in a nutshell - Tuesday, 9th July 2024.

French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday asked Prime Minister Gabriel Attal to remain temporarily in office after the government’s political camp lost its majority in high-stakes legislative elections. The leftist New Popular Front (NFP) coalition won the most parliamentary seats, but failed to win an absolute majority in the National Assembly.

Macron asked Attal to remain temporarily as head of government “to ensure the country’s stability”.

Attal had announced his intention to resign following the outcome of the parliamentary elections. This came after Attal’s party failed to secure a majority in the elections, leading to his decision to step down. He became France’s youngest prime minister in January this year at 34.

French politicians began negotiations on Monday to form a government after the National Assembly was split into three blocks in the wake of snap legislative elections. The leftist New Popular Front coalition emerged as the dominant force, President Emmanuel Macron’s Ensemble came next, followed by the far-right National Rally (RN), which came third.

France faces political uncertainty as the country awaits a new government just weeks before Paris hosts the Olympic Games, on July 26.

The euro touched a more than three-week high against the US dollar on Monday, recovering overnight losses as France’s election pointed to a hung parliament, which is unknown territory for modern France.

MPs are due to elect the President of the National Assembly on Thursday week, July 18. Under the Assembly’s rules, the first two rounds of voting require an absolute majority. In the third round, a relative majority is sufficient.

On the morrow, on July 19, the groups’ presidents will meet to divide up the positions on the Bureau of the National Assembly, its highest executive body. This is a complex process, governed by the same rules, which stipulate that each group is allocated points according to its political weight, with each role also corresponding to a certain number of points.

In the event of a disagreement over the distribution, a scenario that frequently occurs, the roles are distributed by ballot.

Macron dissolved parliament and called for snap legislative elections after the far-right trounced his centrist alliance in the June 9 elections for the European Parliament.

Pressure on Macron to address the French public

President Macron was last night under increasing pressure to address the French public amid concerns a political deadlock will make the nation ungovernable. He is yet to comment publicly after staving off the much-anticipated hard-Right surge in Sunday’s National Assembly elections, although there was no overall winner. His silence comes despite fears a hung parliament of blocs with barely any ideological overlap will see uncertainty reign.

The Left-wing New Popular Front unexpectedly won 188 seats, 27 ahead of Macron’s centrists, with Marine Le Pen’s National Rally (RN) further behind in third, after moderate candidates agreed to stand aside for one another so as not to split the anti-nationalist vote.

Macron’s only intervention since the exit polls signalled defeat for Le Pen was to refuse the resignation of his prime minister.

A Nato summit in Washington starts today – a summit meant to send a signal of strength and unity. But the gathering is at risk of being overshadowed by US domestic politics. With President Joe Biden facing questions whether he is still up to the job and able to win re-election, many in Europe fear a second Donald Trump presidency has become more likely.

During his term in office, Trump repeatedly railed against the alliance and threatened to make Europeans pay for US protection. Recently, on the campaign trail, he went as far as suggesting Russia could “do whatever the hell they want” to NATO members who didn’t meet defence spending targets.

Worries about repercussions should there be a second Trump presidency have been long played down at NATO headquarters and in capitals across Europe, with diplomats arguing that no-one can stop elections in a democracy and that political changes are part of life across the alliance.

Millions of visitors are expected to flock to Paris for the Olympics this month. French airport workers will strike next week – nine days before the Olympics begin. Unions are demanding that all staff receive a bonus because the Games take place during the summer holidays.

Bardella to lead new far-right European Parliament group

The leader of France’s far-right National Rally (RN), Jordan Bardella, will head a new right-wing grouping in the European Parliament, Patriots for Europe. The announcement came the day after Bardella’s party lost the second round of France’s snap legislative election.

In a post-election speech on Sunday night, Bardella announced that the RN’s members of the European Parliament would join a “large group” that would influence the “balance of power in Europe, rejecting the flood of migrants, punitive ecology, and the seizing of our sovereignty”.

On Monday Bardella said Patriots for Europe represented “hope for the tens of millions of citizens in the European nations who value their identity, their sovereignty and their freedom”. He also vowed to “work together in order to retake our institutions and re-orient policies to serve our nations and peoples”.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, Herbert Kickl of the far-right Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) and Andrej Babis, the leader of the populist Czech ANO, announced the launch of the Patriots for Europe alliance last month.

Orban said they had signed a “patriotic manifesto”, promising “peace, security and development” instead of the “war, migration and stagnation” brought by the “Brussels elite”.

Within a week, parties from the right wing and far-right in 12 European countries said they would join the grouping, including the Portuguese Chega, Spain’s Vox, the Dutch VVD of Geert Wilders, the Danish Peoples Party, and Vlaams Belang from Belgium. On Monday, the RN and Italy’s right-wing populist League party joined too, bringing the group’s total members to 84. Most of these parties used to belong to the Identity and Democracy (ID) group, which will now likely cease to exist.

With 30 MEPs, Bardella’s RN contingent will be the largest in the Patriots grouping. The alliance is now the third-largest in the European Parliament, after the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) and the centre-left Socialists & Democrats (S&D).

Notably absent from the Patriots for Europe grouping are Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s Fatelli d’Italia (FdI) party, which belongs to the European Conservatives and Reformists alliance, and the German Alternative fur Deutschland (AfD), which has been politically homeless following a string of scandals earlier this year.

Belgium’s far-right Vlaams Belang party chairman Tom Van Grieken said the “right-wing, patriotic and nationalist parties” that make up the Patriots alliance have “more in common than what divides us”.

White House denies Biden being treated for Parkinson’s

US President Joe Biden is not being treated for Parkinson’s disease, the White House said on Monday, after the New York Times reported visitor logs showed a doctor specialising in the illness visited the White House at least eight times from August to March.

Concerns the President might be suffering from an undisclosed illness have risen since Biden stumbled, appearing frail and losing his train of thought at times during his June 27 debate against Republican Donald Trump.

“Has the President been treated for Parkinson’s?” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was asked during a briefing. Emphatically, she replied: “No!”

Biden is battling criticism from some Democrats that he lacks the mental acuity to stand as their nominee against Trump in the November 5 presidential election.

US urges Modi to advocate for Ukraine’s sovereignty

The US State Department on Monday urged Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a US ally, to make clear that any resolution to the Ukraine conflict needs to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty as he met in Russia with President Vladimir Putin.

“We would urge India, as we do any country when it engages with Russia, to make clear that any resolution to the conflict in Ukraine needs to be one that respects the UN Charter, that respects Ukraine’s territory, Ukraine’s sovereignty,” said spokesman Matthew Miller during a press briefing.

Earlier in the day, Modi arrived in Russia for a two-day official visit, marking his first trip abroad after being re-elected prime minister for the third time.

The Kremlin said that Putin and Modi “will focus on the future development of the traditionally-friendly relations between Russia and India, as well as on key international and regional issues”.

The meeting coincides with an upcoming NATO summit in Washington, where India is considered an ally.

Russian strikes on Ukrainian cities kill at least 37

A Russian missile strike partially destroyed a children’s hospital in Kyiv on Monday, causing terrified patients and their families to flee for their lives, as officials fear more people could be trapped beneath the rubble.

Moscow launched a brazen daytime aerial assault on targets in cities across Ukraine during morning rush hour, killing at least 37 people and injuring 170 others, according to Ukrainian President Zelensky. The large scale bombardment struck areas in the capital, as well as in Dnipro, Kryvyi Rih, Slovyansk and Kramatorsk.

The death toll includes 27, including three children, in the capital, the Kyiv city military administration said Monday.

Two people were killed and at least 16 were injured in the strike on Kyiv’s Okhmatdyt hospital. The facility is Ukraine’s largest children’s medical centre and has been vital in the care of some of the sickest children from across the country. Every year, around 7,000 surgeries – including treatments for cancer and hematological diseases – are conducted at the hospital, according to Ukraine’s human rights ombudsman Dmytro Lubinets.

Italian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani wrote on X that the attack on the children’s hospital is nothing but “a war crime” that must be condemned by the entire international community. He said the Italian government will continue to defend the sovereignty of Ukraine and its people.

Israeli attacks on Gaza may return cease-fire talks to ‘point zero’ – Hamas

The head of the Palestinian group Hamas’s political bureau warned mediators Monday that the Israeli army’s intensified attacks across the Gaza Strip would return cease-fire talks “to point zero”.

In a statement, Hamas said that Ismail Haniyeh spoke with Qatari and Egyptian mediators, “warning of the disastrous repercussions of what is happening in Gaza City, Rafah and other areas across the Gaza Strip”.

He stressed that (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) “Netanyahu and his army bear full responsibility for the collapse of this negotiation path”.

Since Sunday, the Israeli army has been ordering Palestinians in several areas of Gaza City in the northern part of the Gaza Strip to flee towards the city of Deir al-Balah in central Gaza.

Meanwhile, Ronen Bar, the head of Israel’s Shin Bet security service, and CIA Director William Burns, arrived in Egypt on Monday for talks on a Gaza cease-fire and prisoner swap deal between Israel and Hamas.

Israeli media also reported that the head of Israel’s Mossad intelligence service, David Barnea, will travel to Qatar on Wednesday to meet with Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, CIA director Burns and Egypt’s intelligence chief Abbas Kamel.

Storm Beryl in Texas kills 3, cuts power to millions

Tropical Storm Beryl hit the US state of Texas on Monday, causing major flooding and killing at least 3 people: a 53-year-old man and a 74-year-old woman were killed in separate incidents after trees fell on their homes in the Houston area. A third person, a civilian employee of the Houston Police Department, drowned after being trapped by floodwaters under a highway overpass, according to local officials. Highways were flooded and over 1,000 flights were cancelled. The storm caused power to be cut for 2.5 million homes and businesses in the area around Houston, which is Texas’ most populous city. Last weekend, the storm ripped through the Caribbean and Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, killing at least 11 people.

Australia imposes night curfew in tourist town after violence

Australia ordered three nights of curfew on Monday in the outback tourist town of Alice Springs after several incidents of violence, including an alleged assault on four off-duty police officers, when they were walking home.

Northern Territory Police Commissioner Michael Murphy said “significant harm and civil disturbances” had occurred over the last 72 hours in Alice Springs, a remote town in Australia’s vast outback region some 2,000-km north-west of Sydney. Community leaders have long identified alcohol abuse as a major factor behind violence. The curfew will be in force from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. local time.

Euro 2024: Spain v France semifinal

Euro 2024 offers another epic showdown this evening as Spain and France clash in Munich at 9pm for a place in the final. The march towards Berlin puts the greatest defence of Euro 2024 against the best attack. Spain netted 11 goals, more than anyone else, while France conceded only one goal in five games.

The Spaniards should be the favourites, as they come to Munich after beating every single team they find on their way. They finished top in a death group with Italy and Croatia and then beat Germany 2-1 in a last-gasps quarter-final, marred however by penalty controversy against the hosts.

France has not been that convincing. They failed to net a single open-play goal in the whole tournament, winning the round of 16 against Belgium thanks to an own-goal, and then resorting to a dramatic penalty shootout to get rid of Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal.

France-Spain face-offs always proved decisive in the history of the Euros. Every time the two teams clashed in a knockout, the winner went on to lift the trophy. It happened in 1984 (France), 2000 (France) and 2012 (Spain) already.
Overall, France has a better record in major tournaments including the World Cup, with three victories against Spain’s one, and a draw.

The Netherlands came back from a goal behind to beat Turkey 2-1 on Saturday and book a semifinal date with England tomorrow.

Champions League qualification: 6.45 pm Hamrun Spantans v Lincoln Red Imps FC (Gibraltar).

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