Rival parties race to block French far right

This morning's top world news, in a nutshell - Tuesday, 2nd July 2024.

French voters face a decisive choice on Sunday in the run-off of snap parliamentary elections that could see the country’s first far-right government since the Nazi occupation during World War II or no majority emerging at all.
Official results suggest Marine Le Pen’s anti-immigration, nationalist and eurosceptic National Rally party stands a good chance of winning the most seats in the lower house National Assembly for the first time but the outcome remains uncertain amid the complex voting system and political jockeying.


In Sunday’s first round, the National Rally and its allies arrived in first place with 33 per cent of the vote. The New Popular Front – a hastily formed coalition aimed at defeating the far right that unites centre-left, greens and far left – arrived in second place with almost 28 per cent, significantly ahead of President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist alliance with 20 percent.


Dozens of candidates who won at least 50 per cent of Sunday’s vote were elected outright. All the others head to a second round on Sunday, June 7, involving two or three top candidates.


Polling projections suggest the National Rally will have the most seats in the next National Assembly, but it is unclear whether it will get an absolute majority of 289 of the 577 seats.


Those opposed to the far right are scrambling to keep it from getting an absolute majority. The left-wing coalition has said it will withdraw its candidates from districts where they finished in third place or lower to throw more support to candidates better placed to oppose the far right in that locale. Macron’s centrist alliance also said some of its candidates would step down before the run-off to try to block the National Rally from power.


According to France 24, this tactic worked in the past, when Le Pen’s party and its predecessor, the National Front, were considered a political pariah by many. But after an aggressive rebranding and a “de-demonisation” campaign, Le Pen’s party now has broader support across the country.


Olympics organisers hope for peaceful reaction to French elections


A hung French parliament could lead to months of political paralysis and chaos – just as Paris is hosting the Games between July 26 and August 11. Michael Payne, former head of marketing at the IOC, told AFP the level of support politically and around France during the ongoing torch relay suggested “the Olympics themselves are not going to be caught in any political crossfire”.


However, on the streets it may be a different matter if a section of the electorate take the results badly. “The key risk is whether the election results lead to any form of public disturbance,” Payne said. “That might impact the security and the already stretched services.”


Payne said security services would already be focusing on the potential for trouble due to two crises happening outside France which have stirred emotions across the world. “The geopolitical lead-up to these Olympics, from the Russia-Ukraine war to the Israel/Palestine situation, makes for the most complex and sensitive international situation for more than three decades.”


Payne’s fellow former International Olympic Committee (IOC) marketing executive Terrence Burns agreed but said he had confidence in the security services.


“I would politely note that the French authorities have a great deal of experience in dealing with civic disruption,” he said.


UK slams legalisation of 5 West Bank outposts


The United Kingdom “strongly opposes” the Israeli government’s recent legalisation of five settler outposts in the West Bank, according to a spokesperson for Britain’s Foreign Office.


The statement also condemns “further punitive measures” taken against the Palestinian Authority, and calls on Israel to halt settlement expansion and hold perpetrators of “extremist settler violence” accountable.


“We are clear that actions by Israel to weaken the Palestinian Authority must stop. We call for longer-term measures to be put in place to ensure continued correspondent banking relations and assurance that Israel will release frozen funds without delay,” the statement says.


Last week, the security cabinet approved legalising five West Bank outposts and a series of sanctions against the PA. In return for the measures, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich will sign off on moves unfreezing the last three months of tax funds withheld from the PA, a senior Israeli official has told The Times of Israel.


Smotrich said the sanctions were in response to the PA’s actions against Israel at the International Criminal Court, the International Court of Justice and the UN, along with the recent decisions by five European countries to recognise a Palestinian state.


7th October victims sue Iran, Syria, North Korea for billions in US court


Victims of Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel sued Iran, Syria, and North Korea on Monday, saying their governments supplied the terrorists with money, weapons, and know-how needed to carry out the assault that precipitated Israel’s ongoing war in Gaza.


The lawsuit, filed in federal court in New York, seeks at least $4 billion in damages for “a coordination of extra-judicial killings, hostage-takings, and related horrors for which the defendants provided material support and resources”.


Filed by the Anti-Defamation League, it is the largest case against foreign countries in connection with the attack, and the first backed by a Jewish organisation, the ADL said in a statement.


The United States has deemed Iran, Syria, and North Korea to be state sponsors of terrorism, and Washington has designated Hamas as what is known as a “specially designated global terrorist.”


Because such countries rarely abide by court rulings against them in the United States, if the lawsuit’s plaintiffs are successful, they could seek compensation from a fund created by Congress that allows American victims of terrorism to receive payouts. The money comes from seized assets, fines, or other penalties leveled against those who, for example, do business with a state sponsor of terrorism.


But the suit does not provide specific evidence that Tehran, Damascus, or Pyongyang knew in advance about the assault. It accuses the three countries of providing weapons, technology, and financial support necessary for the attack to occur.


Iran has denied knowing about the October 7 attack ahead of time. Like Iran, neighbouring Syria also denied knowledge but offered public support for Hamas after the attack. North Korea denies that it arms Hamas.


However, a terrorist video and weapons seized by Israel show Hamas fighters likely fired North Korean weapons during the October 7 attack. South Korean officials, two experts on North Korean arms, and an Associated Press analysis of weapons captured on the battlefield by Israel point toward Hamas using Pyongyang’s F-7 rocket-propelled grenade, a shoulder-fired weapon that fighters typically use against armored vehicles.


The lawsuit specifically cites the use of the F-7 grenade in the attack as a sign of Pyongyang’s involvement.
Hamas fighters killed around 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and abducted 251 during the October 7 attack. Israel responded with a military offensive in Gaza to destroy Hamas and free the hostages.


The lawsuit was filed on behalf of over 125 plaintiffs, including the estates and relatives of people who were killed, plus people who were physically and/or emotionally injured. All are related to, or are themselves, US citizens.


Under US law, foreign governments can be held liable, in some circumstances, for deaths or injuries caused by acts of terrorism or by providing material support or resources for them.


Portuguese far-right party joins ‘Patriots for Europe’ alliance


Chega, the Portuguese far-right party, has joined “Patriots for Europe,” the new nationalist alliance launched by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.


Prior to the confirmation, Chega’s André Ventura had described the foundation of the movement as a “historic opportunity” to build a political “alternative” and unite the right.


The far-right, nationalist movement wants to set up a new group in the European Parliament. But it needs at least seven member states on board.


The alliance intends to maximise its influence by setting up a new group in the European Parliament. But this requires a minimum of 23 MEPs from at least seven member states.


Until Monday, they had Hungary’s Fidesz-KDNP (11 lawmakers), Czechia’s ANO (7) and Austria’s FPÖ (6). Fidesz and ANO are currently non-attached while FPÖ sits with the far-right Identity and Democracy (ID) group, which will soon have to quit. The addition of Chega, with two lawmakers, brings the alliance one step closer to meeting the seven-country requirement. Together, the four encompass 26 MEPs.


Europarliament: EU Greens ‘not in the majority with ECR’


“We had a very constructive meeting in which we discussed the possibility of a stable and democratic majority in the European Chamber. In any case, we have made it clear that the Greens will not be part of a majority that negotiates with or relies on the far right, including ECR,” the co-president of the Green group, Bas Eickout, said at the end of the meeting with Ursula von der Leyen.


“The EU needs a stable majority that ensures the continuation of the Green Deal and that European industry is a leader in the green transition,” added the group’s co-president Terry Reintke.


‘Supreme Court decision on Trump is a dangerous precedent’ – Biden


“No one is above the law, not even the president of the United States.” Joe Biden said it at the White House. “The Supreme Court ruling is a dangerous precedent,” added the American president regarding the decision on immunity for Donald Trump.


“Americans must decide whether it is acceptable that” the tycoon “encouraged violence to maintain power”, underlined Biden referring to the assault on the American Congress on January 6, 2021. “Americans deserve that Trump’s trial takes place before the elections”, according to the US president.


The US Supreme Court has granted partial presidential immunity to Donald Trump in the trial for the attack on the Capitol, but only for official actions taken within his constitutional powers. In this case the immunity is absolute.
The tycoon is also accused of the secret Mar-a-Lago cards and the attempt to overturn the vote in Georgia.


“Great victory for our Constitution and democracy. Proud to be an American!” Trump commented on the Supreme Court ruling on immunity on his social media site Truth.


According to the US Supreme Court, Trump is not entitled to immunity for actions taken in his private capacity. This will allow the process to continue but with further slowdowns because a distinction will have to be made between official and private documents.


Euro 2024: France edge tense contest with Belgium to reach quarter-finals


Jan Vertonghen’s late own goal took France into the quarter-finals of Euro 2024 on Monday as they edged Belgium 1-0 in a tense tie in Duesseldorf.


France had dominated the last-16 clash but their profligate finishing looked set to force extra time until they finally found a way through with five minutes left.


Substitute Randal Kolo Muani collected the ball inside the Belgian penalty area and hit a shot that was going wide until a deflection off the unfortunate Vertonghen took it past goalkeeper Koen Casteels.


The lucky break sent the 2022 World Cup runners-up into a last-eight tie in Hamburg on Friday as they remain on course to become European champions for the third time.


Portugal need penalties to set up showdown with France


Portugal spared Cristiano Ronaldo’s blushes but still needed penalties to beat Slovenia after a 0-0 draw to set up a Euro 2024 quarter-final with France, who edged out Belgium 1-0 on Monday.


Diego Costa was the Portuguese hero in Frankfurt as the Porto goalkeeper saved all three Slovenian spot-kicks in the shootout.


Ronaldo had been reduced to tears after his penalty in extra-time was saved by Jan Oblak. The five-time Ballon d’Or winner made amends by scoring in the shootout, while Bruno Fernandes and Bernardo Silva also converted to send Portugal through to a blockbuster clash with the French on Friday.


Slovenia were left to regret a huge missed chance for their own rising star Benjamin Sesko when the RB Leipzig striker was denied by Costa deep into extra-time.


As reported by The Athletic, there were two landmarks that occurred during the shootout. Firstly, Portugal’s Diogo Costa became the first goalkeeper to save three penalties in a Euros shootout as he managed to thwart Josip Ilicic, Jure Balkovec and Benjamin Verbic. Another record was set as Slovenia became the first team in the history of the Euros not to score in the shootout. While Slovenia missed all of their penalties, Portugal were successful with all of theirs as Ronaldo, Bruno Fernandes and Bernardo Silva all scored.


Today’s EURO2024 programme: The final two places in the last eight will be decided this evening. In-form Austria are aiming to reach the quarter-finals at the Euros for the first time in their history against Turkey, who will again be backed by a massive support, in Leipzig.


The Netherlands are favourites to bounce back from their 3-2 defeat to Austria, which saw them finish third in Group D, when they take on Romania in Stuttgart.


America Cup: USA and Bolivia KO, Uruguay and Panama in the quarterfinals


The hosts United States and Bolivia do not pass the groups of the America’s Cup as on the third day of the preliminary phase of the tournament they were beaten last night 1-0 and 3-1 respectively by Uruguay and Panama, who enter the quarter-finals the final. Tonight (matches start at 3 am Malta time) the last group matches will be played: Brazil-Colombia and Costa Rica-Paraguay.

Photo: AFP

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