France Rejects Le Pen’s Far-Right Party

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Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: France ’s far-right is beaten in regional elections, U.S. airstrikes hit Syria and Iraq, and the world this week .

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: France’s far-right is beaten in regional elections, U.S. airstrikes hit Syria and Iraq, and the world this week.

If you would like to receive Morning Brief in your inbox every weekday, please sign up here.

The Far-Right Stumbles in France

The French far-right fared poorly in regional elections over the weekend, failing to win control of even one of France’s 18 regions and potentially denting French politician Marine Le Pen’s chances ahead of next year’s presidential contest.

Le Pen’s party, the National Rally, had set its sights on the southern region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur as it sought to secure a breakthrough first regional victory. The party recruited Thierry Mariani, a former transport minister and one-time member of the center-right Les Républicains, to lift its fortunes and soften the party’s image in an area with a large proportion of right-leaning voters.

In the end, the campaign failed as voters instead favored Renaud Muselier of Les Républicains, winning approximately 57 percent of the vote. Muselier’s victory was helped along by the late withdrawal of Greens party candidate Jean-Laurent Félizia, whose strategic exit prevented the kind of vote split that would have given Mariani an opening.

Low turnout. Le Pen hopes the low turnout exhibited in both rounds belies greater support on the national stage. An estimated 34.5 percent of French voters cast a ballot on Sunday, just above the record low turnout of 33 percent in the first round. “Mobilization is the key to the victories to come,” Le Pen reflected after Sunday’s defeat.

De-demonization. Still, the loss puts into question the effectiveness of the party’s “de-demonization” campaign, with an electorate appearing not quite ready to cede power to the far-right. Writing in Foreign Policy earlier this month, Fleur Macdonald profiled the National Rally’s Julien Sanchez, one of 10 mayors the party has successfully elected as it seeks to showcase its ability to govern.

Election 2022. Even though French President Emmanuel Macron’s party, La République En Marche!, performed dismally, he is happy the National Rally’s momentum has been stalled for now. In the most recent presidential poll, Macron led Le Pen in a one-on-one matchup, winning 54 percent of the support, while his approval rating far outstripped his two predecessors at the same point in their presidencies. Today, Macron attempts to burnish his environmental credentials with left-leaning voters as the French Senate considers a wide-ranging climate bill.

The World This Week

On Monday, June 28, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping meet virtually to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Sino-Russian Treaty of Friendship.

On Tuesday, June 29, Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid visits the United Arab Emirates to officially open Israel’s new embassy in Abu Dhabi as well as a new consulate in Dubai.

On Wednesday, June 30, Putin participates in an annual “Direct Line” phone-in show to answer questions from the Russian public.

On Thursday, July 1, China marks the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party.

Slovenia assumes the presidency of the European Council for a six-month term.

On Friday, July 2, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson hosts German Chancellor Angela Merkel to discuss post-Brexit issues and the global coronavirus response.

On Sunday, July 4, Chile’s 155-member Constitutional Convention meets in Santiago for the first time as it begins to draw up a new constitution.

What We’re Following Today

Biden bombs Syria and Iraq. The U.S. military bombed what U.S. Defense Department spokesperson John Kirby described as “facilities used by Iran-backed militia groups in the Iraq-Syria border region” late Sunday in an apparent response to recent drone attacks on U.S. personnel and facilities in Iraq. Three sites were hit in Sunday’s strikes, two in Syria and one in Iraq. As of now, there are no reports of any injuries or deaths from the airstrikes, although a review is ongoing. It’s the second time the United States has conducted airstrikes in Syria since U.S. President Joe Biden took office.

Iran’s nuclear sites. Iran’s parliament speaker said on Sunday the country would not hand over recordings from nuclear sites to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors as a temporary agreement to do so has expired, complicating ongoing nuclear negotiations in Vienna. A spokesperson for the parliament’s National Security and Foreign Affairs Committee said “Iran will also turn off the IAEA cameras if the United States fails to remove all sanctions,” according to the Tehran Times.

Speaking on Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said a failure to extend the monitoring agreement would be a “serious concern” for Vienna negotiations. Iran’s Supreme National Security Council said last week it would only make the decision on whether to extend the IAEA monitoring agreement once it had expired.

Blinken in Rome. Today in Rome, Blinken co-chairs a ministerial-level meeting of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS. Blinken will also visit the Vatican to hold talks with Pope Francis on climate change and debt relief for poorer countries. He finishes his day with G-20 foreign ministers at a welcome dinner in Bari, Italy, ahead of tomorrow’s formal meeting.

On Sunday, Blinken met with Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid in Rome, where Lapid expressed Israel’s “serious reservations” about the revival of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and acknowledged “mistakes were made” by previous Israeli governments in its approach to the United States. “Israel’s bipartisan standing was hurt, and we will fix those mistakes together,” Lapid said.

Keep an Eye On

Peru’s election limbo. Supporters of both Pedro Castillo and Keiko Fujimori took to the streets of Peru over the weekend as the June 6 presidential election still does not have an official winner. Castillo’s apparent 44,000-vote victory has been delayed by Fujimori’s accusations of fraud in an election process that international observers, including the United States, have described as free and fair. An electoral jury charged with adjudicating contested ballots resumes its review today, with an official result only possible once the jury’s work has concluded.

Lebanon’s unrest. Troops were deployed in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli in the early hours of Sunday morning, following protests over a rapid depreciation in the value of the Lebanese pound and deteriorating living conditions. The Lebanese military said 10 soldiers were injured in the protests, which saw the entrance to one government office set alight by protesters as well as the breaching of the gates to a local central bank branch. Security forces resisted a similar attempt to storm the central bank offices in Sidon while smaller protests took place in the capital, Beirut.

GERD tensions. Sudan on Sunday rejected a proposal put forward by Ethiopia to begin filling the reservoir of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam for a second time. A Sudanese official told Reuters the Ethiopian plan was “not real” and “a way to buy time,” with “impossible conditions” attached. The dam project was also brought up by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi when he met with Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Iraqi President Barham Salih in Baghdad on Sunday. Both the Iraqi and Jordanian leaders back Sisi in the dispute, which Egypt fears would endanger its water supply.

Coming Up at FP

Foreign Policy hosts a virtual dialogue today at 11 a.m. ET on gender equality and post-pandemic economic recovery. FP Analytics also recently released a new report and podcast on the topic with the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Tomorrow at 11 a.m. ET, FP will host a virtual dialogue spotlighting the crucial role health supply chains play in preparing for the next pandemic. You can register here.

Odds and Ends

A spat between Russia and the United Kingdom over a British naval vessel’s transit near Russian-occupied Crimea took a bizarre turn over the weekend when classified documents about the operation were found in a sodden heap behind a bus stop in Kent. The documents, given to the BBC, describe the boat’s journey—which caused Russia to scramble military jets—as an “innocent passage through Ukrainian territorial waters” and includes potential routes that would have avoided a Russian response. The British government has launched an investigation into how the documents leaked.

Responding to the incident, Russian foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova mocked the British government. “Why do we need ‘Russian hackers’ if there are British bus stops?” Zakharova said on Telegram.