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Home / Resources / News / French parliamentary elections: our democracies need to be reshaped 

French parliamentary elections: our democracies need to be reshaped 

For several years now, the rise of far-right ideologies in Europe and beyond has been a cause for concern. And rightly so. The recent European and French elections continue to increase the risk of democratic institutions being hijacked in favour of anti-liberal and anti-democratic projects.

The rise of the extreme right in the European Parliament, and the consequent strengthening of these movements whose funding has increased as a result, was expected. At European level, it is still contained – but for how long?

But in 2024, the European elections had an impact in France that had not been anticipated.

For many Europeans, and for many people who live in France or have an interest in France, the last few weeks have been marked by anxiety: the anxiety of seeing one of Europe’s largest countries in terms of population being led by a far-right government whose values and methods run counter to those of European integration.

The French election campaign instrumentalized a fear of “the extremes” to try to “save” a centre. It wrongly compared and put on the same level the Rassemblement National with the coalition of left-wing forces comprising Socialists, Greens, LFI and NPA. By comparing an anti-liberal, anti-democratic, racist and anti-gender force, directly descended from fascism, such as the Rassemblement National, with the left-wing party La France Insoumise – for which an institution such as the Conseil d’Etat, upholder of the Republic, has refuted the term far-left, this campaign contributed to a movement that was already well underway, making the RN an attractive and justifiable alternative for many French voters, and for its very wealthy funders and supports.

The results of the first round of the early parliamentary elections on 30 June 2024 are not reassuring. Because of the voting system, even with only 33% of the votes cast, the Rassemblement National will have a majority in the National Assembly, whether relative or absolute.

Will the next French government be led by the Rassemblement National? Will it be anti-European, unliberal and racist? And three years before the French presidential elections (if the electoral calendar is not once again called into question)?

What can each of us do?

Leaving the door open to the Rassemblement National is not an alternative that would stay without serious immediate and long-term consequences for France and Europe, economically, politically and socially. Under the guise of defending the poorest people and those who suffer more from the liberal policies dismantling the welfare state, the Rassemblement National defends a racist societal project that is anti-women’s rights (by putting white women against others), and is subjected to big business and anti-democratic foreign interference (the RN’s financial and ideological links with Russia have been widely documented).

Once in power, ultra-conservative and fascist parties, even under the guise of respectability, have implemented policies that harm the most vulnerable: to women, restricting access to abortion (Poland, Italy) and multiplying incentives to return home and procreate, the rights of LGBTQI+ people, such as having their parenthood recognised (Italy), and, of course, carrying a racist ideology and attacking migrants, and anyone with links to other countries, (as evidenced by the current controversy over dual nationals in France).

For European Alternatives, the urgent priority is of course to limit the Rassemblement National’s access to power. Not one more vote for the RN, and all possible votes against the RN, should be everyone’s slogan for the coming week.

But what should we do the day after 7 July?

Whether the RN’s majority is relative or absolute, France will be difficult to govern. The political crisis is real, and it is the crisis of a democracy that cannot act where it is most needed.

Europe’s national democracies cannot – under the current system – redistribute enough to the most vulnerable, or even to the greatest number. The concentration of wealth in the hands of a few has grown exponentially in recent decades. Today’s national democracies are obliged to serve the interests of capital, even when the majority of the population opposes them, as demonstrated by the case of pension reform in France, presented as the only possible alternative to preserve France’s economic attractiveness. The ideas and language of the far-right have been widely adopted by more centrist political parties, particularly on immigration.

Enact: staying on our guard, countering, reporting, denouncing and debunking attacks

As citizens, we must work against fascist forces at every possible level: every law, every directive, every retrograde administrative action must be challenged as far as possible, in France and in Europe.

Joining forces at transnational level

As Europeans, we must continue to build the progressive front at European level and beyond. Fighting against the victory of the neo-conservative forces cannot be done at national level. Their alliance is transnational and well-funded. This can only be done by strong alliances of progressive and democratic forces, at national and international level. Some countries precede France in the experience of far-right, fascist or neo-conservative governments. The experience of Polish, Hungarian, Italian, Slovakian and Serbian activists must be heard, listened to and used to take better action and protect ourselves. We need to be able to uncover, unmask and demonstrate the constant attacks on human and social rights orchestrated by these governments, their methods of action and their funding.

At a transnational level, the response of European institutions to ultra-conservative and fascist regimes has been inadequate. They need to act faster and better. The democrats in the European institutions – Parliament, Commission and Council – could take firm action to fight corruption, uphold the rule of law, protect minorities and combat hate speech.

European Alternatives will continue to create links and bridges with all those, in their various mandates and positions, who see democracy, the connection with citizens, residents and European democratic forces as one of the founding elements of a peaceful and social Europe.

Europeans, and French among them, are entitled to an alternative to that offered by the Rassemblement National and the extreme right-wing movements that are taking root and spreading throughout Europe.

The road ahead seems increasingly long and full of pitfalls, but it is our responsibility and our duty to work together to build democracy today and tomorrow. We need to build democratic alternatives that will prevent the current concentration of power and wealth, and create real systems in which the most vulnerable citizens, those most exploited by the system, do not have to turn to anti-democratic forces to have a chance of being heard.