French conservative party leader backs alliance with Le Pen's far-right National Rally

The leader of France's conservative Republicans party on Tuesday said he backed an alliance with the far-right National Rally in snap legislative elections, triggering a crisis within his own party and fury from the government.

The shock announcement by the Republicans' (LR) leader Eric Ciotti in a lunchtime television interview on Tuesday is the first time in modern French political history that a leader of a traditional party has backed an alliance with the far-right National Rally (RN).

President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday called the snap elections on 30 June, with a second round on 7 July, in a major gamble after the RN scored more than double the number of votes of his centrist alliance in the EU elections.

With less than three weeks to go before the first round, Macron is facing opposition alliances on the left and right amid warnings that his bet could backfire.

"We need to have an alliance while remaining ourselves... an alliance with the RN and its candidates," Ciotti told TF1 television, adding that he had already held discussions with Le Pen, a three-time presidential candidate, and RN party leader Jordan Bardella.

Le Pen praised "the courageous choice" and "sense of responsibility" of Ciotti, saying she hoped that a significant number of LR figures would follow him.

Risk of implosion

Ciotti's move, which he said was aimed at creating a "significant" group in the new National Assembly after the elections, risks tearing apart his own party.

"And I say to the French: 'Don't be scared, go and vote'."


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