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Étienne Paré in Paris

Posted at 1:54 p.m.

  • Europe

As legislative elections approach, which promise to be historic, the atmosphere in Paris is, all in all, very normal for the moment. The leap into the unknown that awaits France did not dissuade Parisians from flocking to the terraces on Friday evening en masse to celebrate the victory of the Blues against the Portuguese soccer team. This fraternal and good-natured atmosphere contrasts with the heated debates of recent days in the various media, where everyone willingly calls each other anti-Semites, racists, even fascists.

< p>But make no mistake: the legislative elections are still occupying people's minds. There is not a café, a restaurant, a bar where we do not hear politics talked about at the next table. That the far right is at the gates of power is worrying in Paris, one of the cities where the vote for the National Rally remains the most marginal. The RN only managed to qualify for the second round in one of the 18 constituencies in the capital.

“Paris is a city of immigrants. For now, it's calm. But all it takes is a spark for the fire to catch on. If the RN wins tomorrow, it could be a spark,” says Yvan Cotten-Sapa, a young student we met on Place de la République.

The huge monument erected in the center of the place has been tagged to its full height with slogans hostile to the National Rally. Two huge Algerian and Palestinian flags flutter side by side. The scene is impressive. Several foreign television channels have trained their cameras on it. On Saturday morning, journalists from Greece, Turkey and Mexico could be seen there: all fascinated by the rise of the extreme right in the “country of human rights.”

In fact, it was quite calm on Saturday around noon at Place de la République, where a large demonstration against the RN was held earlier this week. This was one of the only ones; between the two rounds was not marked by a surge of protests in the street, as some feared. But the unveiling of the results of the second round could change the situation.

Risks of overflows

The Ministry of the Interior will deploy 30,000 members of the police across France on Sunday to avoid excesses. Some stores in Paris are also preparing for the worst. They will empty their stocks and barricade their windows on Sunday evening, for fear that the situation will degenerate into breakage or looting.

The country has experienced its share of gender violence in recent years with the Yellow Vest crisis, then the riots last summer that occurred after the death of young Nahel, 17, during a police check. “The context is different this time. But I think that if the RN passes, there could be uprisings,” fears Christophe, who runs a clothing store on Avenue des Champs-Élysées.

The manager of another luxury brand, who also did not want to be identified so as not to harm her company, is not overly worried about the troubles that could occur on Sunday. She is more concerned about the impact the Olympic Games, which are scheduled to open on July 26, will have on her business.

“Currently, there are fewer people in Paris, but it's not because of the elections, it's because Parisians fled the city in anticipation of the Olympics. The big unknown for us is whether the Games will attract tourists or if, on the contrary, they will have pushed foreigners to postpone their trip,” she says.

At the end of the hyperpolarized campaign, there was nothing unusual on the Champs-Élysées on Saturday morning. As usual, hordes of American and Chinese tourists gathered there to have their photos taken with the Arc de Triomphe. And this, despite the very gloomy weather.

No majority in sight

Temperatures have so far been rather lousy this summer in Paris. We did not experience major heatwaves, as was the case in previous years. Is this why environmental issues were almost completely absent from these elections ? After taking advantage of a Greta Thunberg effect before the pandemic, the Ecologists today seem condemned to playing second fiddle in French political life . Within the New Popular Front, they find themselves caught between their two coalition partners, the rebels of the radical left and the socialists of the center left.

On the ground, immigration, insecurity and the economy are the issues most often raised. But since the first round, the mainstream media have focused on the intricacies of the French two-round political system. Because a whole mechanism has been operating for a week to block the candidates of the National Rally. President Macron's camp called on its candidates who came in third place to withdraw from the second round in favor of those of the New Popular Front. The left-wing coalition also indicated to its candidates who came in third place and who could have remained in the second round not to do so, in order to allow the Macronists better positioned than them to beat the RN.

This strategy could prevent the young Jordan Bardella, Marine Le Pen's protégé, from becoming prime minister. According to recent projections from polling institutes, the RN would not exceed the mark of 289 seats, the magic number to obtain a majority in the National Assembly.

Without any majority party in parliament, France, which will remain chaired by Emmanuel Macron, could prove ungovernable.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116