1 Jul 2024

‘A real rejection of traditional politics’: Renaissance candidate on far-right lead in France election

We spoke to Eleonore Caroit, a candidate for President Macron’s centrist Renaissance Party.


Krishnan Guru-Murthy: Why do you think so many people have rejected you? Why do you think you’re losing?

Eleonore Caroit: In general, the bloc, you mean? Because I’m in a fairly good position.

Krishnan Guru-Murthy: No, not you personally.

Eleonore Caroit: Okay, we’re in the campaign, so it’s important to specify that. No, I think right now, there is a real rejection of traditional politics. I’ve been sitting at the National Assembly for the past two years, and it has been quite a circus. It’s been extremely aggressive, disruptive from the extreme right, obviously, and also from the extreme left.

I think French people are just tired of that, and they want to show their disapproval of what is happening. This is the reason why they end up voting for a party that presents itself as being an alternative party – a party that is outside of the traditional system. But in fact it isn’t, because the Le Pens have been there for decades. So I believe this is one of the reasons.

Krishnan Guru-Murthy: Do you think you will be able to do the deals across France in enough places?

Eleonore Caroit: I think it is extremely important to block the party, the National Rally. Not only for what it is, but for what it represents and for the values that it conveys. For instance, I am a dual national. There are hundreds, thousands, millions, of dual nationals, dual citizens in France. What we’ve seen in this very rapid and fast campaign is that the National Rally does not consider us as equal to the French that only have one nationality. I find that extremely striking and just one example of what it could do if they were to come to power.

The other thing is the economy. Clearly they’ve been around for a long time, but they have no experience. Their economic programme is also very complex and unrealistic, just exactly as is the extreme left. So I think it is very important that we block those extremist parties in the next hours and days.

Krishnan Guru-Murthy: But isn’t the point of this first round that the centre has been shown to have failed to have the answers? Keir Starmer here in this country, who is currently on track to be the prime minister on Friday, has said the lesson of this first round is that progressives need to show that only they have the answers to everyday problems of ordinary people. That is what you have failed to do, isn’t it?

Eleonore Caroit: I think there are many reasons. We are in the context of a disillusion that comes after the European elections. Traditionally since 2014, but even before, a vote for the European election has been a protest vote generally. Not so much for the programmes, not so much for what is happening in Europe, not so much for whether we want to stay or not in Europe, but just a protest vote. I think, clearly, the consequences now are national. So I don’t think you can link the two.

But right now what we need to tell the French people is this is not over yet. You have the power to make things right, to make our values prevail. I think there’s a difference between the left wing and the right wing. There is a bloc, a centre bloc that is important and that needs to exist, because otherwise the ideas are too dangerous for our economy, but also for our fundamental values.

Krishnan Guru-Murthy: You’ve spoken a little of what National Rally might mean for France. What do you think a National Rally government in France would mean for the European Union?

Eleonore Caroit: I think it would be a total disaster because what we tend to forget is their close links to Russia. Marine Le Pen’s party had their loan, their money, from Russian banks, and she has not hidden that she was really close to Vladimir Putin. Right now they’ve adopted a different stance. But this continues to be something that is out there.

They’ve also had a very ambiguous position on several international matters. When it comes to Europe, they’ve also been very ambiguous and very dangerous. For years they said they were in favour of Frexit, but now they see that it’s not a popular idea anymore and they’ve changed their minds suddenly. But the truth is, it is a populist, protectionist party that wants France to be isolated from the rest of Europe and the rest of the world. So that’s why I would always find them in their ideas.

Krishnan Guru-Murthy: If you are to keep the National Rally out, you’re going to have to do a deal with the left right across France. But what would that mean for the prime minister? Do you think President Macron is prepared to appoint a left-wing prime minister instead of a centrist?

Eleonore Caroit: It is very hard to tell. It’s hard to tell right now whether it would be someone from the left or someone from the right. It would have to be a moderate, hopefully. What we’re trying to do here is we’re trying to constitute a bloc, a republican bloc, of people that don’t necessarily have exactly the same ideas, but that have a general idea of what our values should be, of what our economy should be, and of how we should be integrated within Europe and within the world. But this is not clear. There’s no clear answer. Unlike you, unlike other parliamentary countries, we don’t have a tradition of doing these governmental coalitions. We don’t have a tradition of having to share power. I think it’s important that we start learning how to do that.