Islamophobic far-right National Rally leads first round of French election

The far-right anti-Muslim National Rally (RN) has emerged as the frontrunner in the first round of French elections.

The result puts the party closer to forming a government and claiming the prime minister’s post.

RN secured 33.14% of the votes, with the left-wing New Popular Front alliance coming second with 27.9%. President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist coalition trailed in third at 20.7%.

This outcome nearly doubles the RN’s 2022 performance.

In response, hundreds of French citizens protested in Paris on Sunday evening. The party has faced allegations of xenophobia and discrimination against minorities, especially Muslims and people of African descent.

The primary focus of its campaign has been against immigration and on the idea of “national preference.”

The RN’s success follows their recent victory in European elections, which prompted Macron to dissolve the National Assembly.

RN leader Marine Le Pen cautioned that “nothing is won yet” and urged supporters to mobilise for the July 7 second round.

Before the election, many French citizens, especially those from Muslim and immigrant backgrounds, expressed concerns about the future implications of an RN victory.

Football star Kylian Mbappé urged young voters to reject “extremists”, who he said were “at the gates of power” ahead of France’s opening Euro 2024 game.

Although Mbappé did not mention any party, his comments came in response to a question about his teammate Marcus Thuram. In a recent interview, Thuram said he wanted to prevent the RN from gaining power.

Election results reflect fears of rising French racism

The election results come as human rights groups raise concerns about the ‘liberation of racist hatred’ in the country.

A recent survey by the National Consultative Commission on Human Rights (CNCDH), a UN-accredited French institution, revealed a decline in the tolerance index for the second consecutive year.

Even though it is higher than in the 1990s, this decrease is considered ‘substantial and rare’.

The survey found that 56% of French people (+3 points) believe ‘there are too many immigrants in France’, while 51% (+3) feel ‘we no longer feel at home in France’.

For the CNCDH, this is “closely linked to the rejection of a France perceived as being increasingly multicultural”.

“The immigrant, a convenient receptacle for all criticism, has regularly been singled out as responsible for the difficulties encountered in our societies,” said Jean-Marie Burguburu, CNCDH president.

According to the report, Roma face the most discrimination, followed by Muslims. Only 32% hold a ‘positive opinion’ of Islam.

The CNCDH report points to the NR and media for encouraging these attitudes.

“For several years, the National Rally has benefited from an increased audience at the polls, but also in the media and institutions… there is a whole group of media figures and intellectuals who give voice and try to impose their ways of seeing immigration and diversity,” the report said.

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