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French opposition parties on the left and right seek alliances ahead of snap elections

NICE, France — (AP) — Empowered by a stunning triumph at the European elections, France's far-right National Rally on Tuesday hit the national campaign trail with its star leader, Jordan Bardella, promising supporters "the largest possible majority" at the upcoming parliamentary vote.

Opposition parties on the left and right have been scrambling to form alliances and field candidates in the snap national elections called by President Emmanuel Macron after his party suffered a crushing defeat by the far right in the European Parliament vote on Sunday.

A win for the National Rally in the national elections could result in the French far right leading a government for the first time since World War II.

While sharp differences between parties remain on either side of the political spectrum, prominent figures calling for a united front appear to have one thing in common: They don’t want to cooperate with Macron.

Despite their divisions, left-wing parties agreed late Monday to form an alliance that includes the Greens, the Socialists, the Communists and the far-left France Unbowed of Jean-Luc Mélenchon. Leaders have not agreed on who will head the coalition nor on its program.

In light of the European polls, politicians on the left are focused on closing ranks to prevent a win for the National Rally. For now, they have also vowed not to join forces with Macron's centrists.

In a joint statement, the alliance called on all forces on the left, including the influential labor unions, to unite behind a “new popular front” to form an “alternative to Emmanuel Macron and to fight against the racist project of the far right.”

National Rally leader Marine Le Pen is working to consolidate power on the right ahead of the two-round elections on June 30 and July 7. Le Pen's niece, Marion Maréchal, who won a seat in the European Parliament on Sunday as a member of the rival Reconquer! party of Eric Zemmour, on Monday visited National Rally headquarters in Paris to negotiate a far-right alliance.

Family ties aside, Maréchal said Tuesday that Bardella informed her of a change of heart in the National Rally regarding a pact with the Reconquer! party. Bardella offered “a regrettable explanation against an agreement by saying that (Le Pen's party) does not want to be associated directly or indirectly with Eric Zemmour,” Maréchal said in a statement.

Le Pen also met with members of the conservative Republicans party to discuss a united front. Some conservative lawmakers have supported some of Macron's bills in the National Assembly since the president lost a majority in the lower house of the French parliament following the 2022 general election.

“We have a historic chance to allow the national camp to put France back on track,” Le Pen said in an interview with the French public broadcaster on Monday evening. She said the National Rally and the conservatives could agree on several policy goals, including an economic recovery plan, boosting purchasing power and curbing immigration.

The Republicans' President Éric Ciotti said he wants an agreement with Le Pen, prompting several prominent members of his party to call for his resignation. Ciotti insisted the conservatives need the alliance for their political survival.

“I want my political family to move in this direction,” he said in an interview with the French public broadcaster on Tuesday. He blasted what he said was Macron’s bloc within the conservative party, “which has led the country to where it is today — with more violence, more insecurity.”

“A right-wing bloc, a national bloc … is what the vast majority of our voters want,” Ciotti said.

Bardella, Le Pen’s 28-year-old protégé and the face of the far right's European triumph, also urged French conservatives to ride the wave of popularity with the National Rally. He urged the conservatives to “stop being Emmanuel Macron’s political crutch” and ”come and work alongside us.”

French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire called on Macron's Renaissance party members to “make room” in their ranks for those conservatives who refuse to cooperate with the far right at the election.

Earlier Tuesday, Prime Minister Gabriel Attal met with the outgoing Renaissance lawmakers still reeling from their defeat by the far right and the president’s decision to dissolve the National Assembly.

Attal acknowledged that the dissolution was “a brutal decision” for the lawmakers, but he urged them to prepare for “the new fight.”

“You embody stability against chaos … courage against populism,” Attal said.

Macron is expected to discuss the upcoming election in a news conference scheduled for Wednesday.

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