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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Angelique Chrisafis in Paris

Les Républicains leader vows to stay on despite revolt over Le Pen alliance plans

Éric Ciotti holds a blue folder as he is surrounded by members of the French press
Éric Ciotti at the party’s headquarters on Tuesday. He said he had closed the doors on Wednesday ‘after receiving threats’. Photograph: Jacques Witt/Sipa/Rex/Shutterstock

Éric Ciotti, the leader of France’s mainstream rightwing party, Les Républicains, has vowed he will stay in his job despite key members of his party voting unanimously to oust him over his proposed alliance with the far right.

Ciotti was believed to have been holed up in his office on Wednesday after locking members out of his party’s Paris headquarters amid a mass revolt over his call for an alliance with Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally.

The extraordinary scenes outside the locked offices echoed the disarray that has gripped French politics since Emmanuel Macron called a snap election on Sunday to try to counter the rise of the far right.

Senior figures from Les Républicains arrived at the party headquarters on Wednesday, where they had planned to hold a meeting to oust Ciotti, saying his announcement on Tuesday of an alliance with Le Pen was a betrayal of their values. However, they found the building locked.

Ciotti posted on X that he had closed the doors “after receiving threats” and that he had to “guarantee staff safety”.

“What’s more, there has never been any meeting planned at the HQ this afternoon,” he wrote.

Aurélien Pradié, a senior member of the party, told TV crews outside the closed door: “We live in a democracy. People that shut themselves in their office and say ‘I’m never coming out’ – that’s not possible.”

Pradié said Ciotti “was no longer president [of the party] from the second he made this insane decision”, referring to the proposed alliance with the National Rally.

“We’ll remove him from the office of the heirs of General de Gaulle if we have to,” Pradié said, adding: “We are not in the normal world here, it’s just not possible. There are French people working so hard, who every day hope to believe in democracy and they see this spectacle of crazy people. Enough is enough.”

Asked how party figures would get Ciotti out, he said they would ask Jordan Bardella, the president of Le Pen’s National Rally, to ask Ciotti to leave his office. Another Les Républicains MP joked that they would call the fire brigade.

Members of the party hastily left to hold a meeting elsewhere to try to sack Ciotti, which Ciotti said was not possible according to party statutes. They were expected to hold a press conference outside the locked building later on Wednesday afternoon.

“The idea is to unanimously vote for his exclusion,” Vincent Jeanbrun, a spokesperson for Les Républicains and a mayor, told journalists. “Éric Ciotti has the methods of a dictator. He has shut himself in his office. He spent his career quoting General de Gaulle but what he did yesterday was the Munich accords,” referring to an appeasement deal reached in 1938 between Nazi Germany, the UK, France and Italy.

Valérie Pécresse, the party’s former presidential candidate and head of the Île-de-France region, outside Paris, said: “There’s no room for traitors, nor for petty putsches.”

At the end of the afternoon, Annie Genevard, the secretary general of Les Républicains, opened the door to the party’s headquarters with a spare key, letting in several lawmakers. They left soon after, saying Ciotti was not there.

Macron called a snap parliamentary election on Sunday night after Le Pen’s far-right party won more than 31% of the vote in the European elections, more than twice the share of the score won by Macron’s centrist grouping. The election will take place on 30 June and 7 July.

With little chance of overtaking the far-right National Rally in terms of vote share, Macron on Wednesday called for a broad-based centrist coalition and appealed to the moderate left and right to join him.

On the left, the Socialist party and La France Insoumise announced they had reached an agreement to form an alliance of several leftwing parties, which would agree not to run candidates against one another.

Similar to an agreement in the 2022 parliamentary elections, which allowed the left to maximise its seats, La France Insoumise will field candidates in 230 constituencies, the Socialists in 170 constituencies – a greater number than in 2022 – the Greens in about 90 and the Communists in 50.

The left intend to join demonstrations against the far right planned for this weekend by the main trade union federations.

An Elabe poll for BFM TV and La Tribune Dimanche released on Wednesday showed Le Pen’s far right expected to win 31% of votes in the first round of the French legislative elections on 30 June. The poll also showed that the alliance of leftwing parties would get 28%, ahead of Macron’s Renaissance party, with 18% of the votes. It predicted a 6.5% vote share for Les Républicains.

Candidates’ names must be registered with election authorities by 6pm on Sunday, before the official start of campaigning next week.

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