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France in Shock as Conservative Leader Embraces Far Right

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The announcement by the head of the Republicans was a historic break with his party's policy as dismay spread over a snap election.

Éric Ciotti, the leader of the Republicans party, called the barrier that traditional parties have erected around the far right "totally out of step with the situation in France."Credit...Dimitar Dilkoff/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The head of France's conservative party on Tuesday called for an alliance with the far right in upcoming snap elections, breaking a longstanding taboo and throwing his party into deep turmoil as the shock waves from President Emmanuel Macron's decision to dissolve the lower house of Parliament coursed through the country.

No leader of any mainstream French political party has ever previously embraced a possible alliance with Marine Le Pen's National Rally, or its predecessor, the National Front. But across Europe, barriers to what was long regarded as the extreme nationalist right have been falling as those parties have adjusted their positions and as a broader consensus has formed that large-scale illegal immigration across a porous European Union border must be curbed.

The announcement, by Éric Ciotti, the head of the Republicans, was a historic break with the party's longstanding line and its ties to former President Charles de Gaulle. Mr. Ciotti's call was immediately met with a chorus of angry disapproval from within his own ranks.

Uncertainty hung over France just weeks from the Olympic Games it will host. Scattered demonstrations against the far right broke out in Paris and elsewhere. Political parties scrambled to make sense of Mr. Macron's decision and get organized with just 19 days remaining before the first round of the election, the shortest campaign in the history of the Fifth Republic. The ratings agency Moody's issued a warning that the snap election "increases risks to financial consolidation" for a heavily indebted France.

The elections for the National Assembly, the lower and more powerful house of France's Parliament, are scheduled for June 30 and July 7. Mr. Macron called them last week after his party suffered a bruising defeat in European Parliament elections, gaining just 14.6 percent of the vote nationwide, compared with about 31.4 percent for the National Rally, led by Ms. Le Pen's protégé, Jordan Bardella. The Republicans fared even worse, with only 7.25 percent.

Mr. Bardella, 28, who became the new and widely popular face of French politics during the campaign for the European Parliament elections, welcomed Mr. Ciotti's announcement and described it as "putting the interests of the French people before those of our parties."

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