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Les Bleus unite a divided France ahead of elections

French citizens living in Madrid enjoying the national game for EuroCup 2024
French citizens living in Madrid enjoying the national game for EuroCup 2024 Copyright Euronews
Copyright Euronews
By Jaime Velazquez
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As France faces early legislative elections and the rise of the far-right, the French community in Madrid finds unity in the Euro Cup. Amid political tensions, football offers a brief respite, bringing French expatriates together.

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In the heart of Madrid, the French community has come together to cheer on their national football team as they embark on their Euro 2024 campaign. Yet, the excitement of the sporting event is being overshadowed by political upheaval at home.

Following the surprising defeat of President Emmanuel Macron's party and an alarming electoral surge by the far right, France has now been plunged into a snap legislative election, with Macron hoping the electorate will decide to reject extremist politics.

For those gathered in Madrid, the Euros represent something of a haven from the political storm. Among the crowd, French expatriate Arthur Franzoli shared his thoughts with Euronews.

"Through sports, all differences like politics and such come to an end", he assures.

At the centre of attention is Kylian Mbappé, the star player who has publicly urged his fellow citizens to vote against extremism. "He represents one side, or a part of France; he comes from the 'suburbs'. And I think all people in France need to be valued" Franzoli adds.

For Charlotte Charton, another French resident in Madrid, the footballers are more than athletes; they are role models.

"Look, they are examples in the end," she says. "And to me, because I share their opinions, it obviously seems right to me."

As the French national team fights for victory on the pitch, it becomes clear that football matches are one of the few occasions where the French can be seen truly singing in unison. But this show of unity stands in stark contrast to the divided electorate that will head to the polls on 30 June.

To the ballot box

At the French Consulate in Madrid, dozens of French citizens are completing the necessary procedures to cast their vote in a few weeks, a significant moment following the National Rally's victory in the European elections.

Oriane Cosker explained to Euronews why the far right carries an appeal for so many French voters.

"Some people have been abandoned by both the right and the left, and the only option they see that they have not yet tried is the far right", she said.

Despite the political fervour, voter turnout among the French electorate in Spain has been notably low in previous EU elections, with only 28.7% participating.

"The goal is to make our vote count," said Victor Camus, another French resident. "I did it first in the European elections, but now it is noticeable that more people are willing to vote, because we have seen the consequences it had."

In the last elections, Raphaël Glucksmann's party emerged victorious in Spain with 21% of the vote. Outside the consulate, Professor Nicolas Rossignol and his colleagues are busily distributing propaganda for the new Popular Front.

"We didn't have much time. They didn't give us any time to mobilise people, but we are trying. We are trying to get more people to vote," Rossignol explained.

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An existential decision on France's future

The backdrop to these events is a significant shift in French politics. Macron's Renew party suffered a stinging defeat in the European elections, securing just 15.2% of the vote compared to the far-right National Rally's 31.5%. 

In an attempt to reassert control over France’s political future, Macron responded to the result with an enormous political gamble.

In a five-minute video address released on social media, he announced the dissolution of the national assembly and the dates for a snap election: 30 June for the first round, and 7 July for the second.

Marine Le Pen, president of the National Rally's group in the national assembly, welcomed the decision, declaring, "We are ready to exercise power if the people of France have confidence in us during these future legislative elections."

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Similarly, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, leader of the far-left party France Unbowed, echoed this sentiment, criticising Macron's policies and calling for a new direction for France.

As the French decide the future of their country in these crucial elections, the national team continues its pursuit of glory in the Euros. For a brief moment, the cheers and hopes for Les Bleus allow them to forget their political differences — at least until the final whistle blows.

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