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African leaders, analysts concerned over rise of far right in France

By Melissa Chemam with RFI
France AFP - ALEXIS HUGUET
MON, 17 JUN 2024 LISTEN
AFP - ALEXIS HUGUET

Since the far right made new gains in the European elections in June, African leaders and commentators have been reacting to the prospect of a National Rally (RN) government in France, where the campaign for legislative elections is underway.

The potential access to power of the far right "is a major political event, which will shake up the political configuration in France, and have a considerable impact on relations between France and Africa," professor emeritus in political science at the Gaston Berger University of Saint-Louis, Senegal, Moussa Diaw told RFI.

French President Emmanuel Macron decided on 9 June to dissolve the National Assembly and hold legislative elections on 30 June and 7 July after his centrist allies experienced a drubbing against by far right in EU-wide polls.

In France, the far-right National Rally (RN) won 31.5 percent of the vote compared to 15 percent for Macron's centrist Renaissance party, according to exit polls.

Macron was not obliged to dissolve the National Assembly, Diaw says, but his decision is "an admission of failure".

The President "could have resisted differently, considered this election as a warning about his policies and tried to redress the situation", Diaw adds.

For him, the dissolution of parliament "is really confirming and accepting the breakthrough of the extreme right."

Diaw hopes that if France is governed by a coalition after these new elections, this will decrease the presidential powers in terms of foreign policy, and give African partners more agency into their relations with France.

Discord

But he suggests that the presence of the National Rally could translate into "forms of discord" with African governments, especially over immigration laws.

"Its ideology is based on hate speech, a radical speech with a propositions of laws to limit immigration; we are talking of zero tolerance at the level of immigration," he says.

By way of example, he points to Senegal, where the newly elected Senegalese Prime Minister, Ousmane Sonko is much closer to left-leaning ideas and the likes of Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

 

Reduction in aid


For Nigerien analyst Seidik Abba, "it makes little difference for Africa in general," whether the right-wing or left-wing are in power, "but the far right could have a very different agenda," he told RFI.

Taking into account the complex relations between France and its former colonies, a far-right government could have a huge impact for Africans, he told RFI.

"The far right would probably reduce development aid, demands for migrant workers, and cooperation," Abba points out, adding it would be an acceleration of a process already in place.

The RN could particularly hit the number of visas for African students, firstly, then impact the lives of African diaspora from Subsaharan Africa and North Africa.

"It could make their life in France much more difficult," Abba adds. "African people living in France are obviously not in favour of the National Rally coming to power."

He also says military relations could be further affected, especially for Niger, where even if the junta is currently at odds with France, the far right could make this worse.

Pragmatism

In West Africa, Guinea's Prime Minister Bah Oury is more pragmatic.

"I don't get involved in French domestic politics," he told RFI.

"Faced with the trials of power, realism always ends up winning out, so, that doesn't worry us too much and we know that we will deal with any government in the French Republic and even in Europe."

Oury did concede however that with the rise in populism across Europe, "this extreme discourse against immigrant populations is one that concerns us."

He says that the pressure is on African leaders to create suitable conditions so that their nationals can work in their own country and that "our governance is virtuous governance," he adds. 

Break with old order

In Burkina Faso, where the ruling junta has turned its back on France in favour of Russia in recent years, the daily newspaper Le Pays is not far from rejoicing at the rise of the extreme right in Europe.

"This rise of nationalism in Europe occurs in a context when Africa is rapidly changing," the paper wrote. More and more African countries demand more sovereignty, and want a diversification of their partners. This denotes a desire to break with an old order."

The same desire to break away from France's agenda is being seen in the rest of the Sahel, in Mali, Niger and even in Chad, the last remaining French partner in the region.

"If visas are blocked by France, we will apply reciprocity," a Chadian official told newspaper Le Monde.

"France is taking on a new voice, which will accelerate its fall in Africa," an Ivorian source said.

Which team do you think has the higher chance of winning the 2024 elections?

Started: 02-07-2024 | Ends: 31-10-2024

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