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25 Jun 2024

Snap elections in France: Some business leaders said to 'court' far right amid Europe-wide calls to stand against populism & hatred

Prior to snap elections in France, business leaders are seeking to 'court' Marine Le Pen’s National Rally (RN) party in fear of leftwing taxation polices, the Financial Times (FT) has claimed. The election campaign has seen newly formed leftwing alliance NFP promising to undo pension reforms, raise the minimum wage, and increase public sector salaries and benefits for people on welfare through new/more taxation of wealth and high incomes, media articles say. The NFP currently comes second in polls after the RN.

FT spoke to senior executives and bankers anonymously who claimed they felt Le Pen’s party was more of a “blank slate”, open to persuasion on "key issues" for businesses, while the left would not compromise on its “hardline” agenda. RN had already attempted to "woo" businesses in closed-door meetings in recent months, FT reports.

Meanwhile, some business leaders have also warned against eurosceptic RN and its harsh stance on immigration. “We need international talent everywhere,” said Chloé Clair, CEO of "green AI" company namR, when interviewed by Euronews – "[y]ou can't succeed by being xenophobic.” Another featured business leader expressed concerns over far right promises that could encourage the consumption of fossil fuels instead of speeding up the green transition.

Citizen activists, trade unionists, lawyers, journalists and business people share a common civil society space that a growing number of corporate leaders have also come to understand must be defended.
Shared Space under Pressure, Bennett Freeman, BHRRC, ISHR et al. (2018)

Snap elections in France on 30 June and 7 July have been called after RN won more than double the seats of President Macron’s Renaissance party in recent European Parliament elections. While final EU results did not show a surge for the far right all across Europe, it also received many votes in Germany, Austria and elsewhere. German business leaders have increasingly come out against far-right AfD amid fears that Germany's image as an attractive destination for foreign investment could be threatened, according to media reports (see also business alliance WE STAND FOR VALUES).

In addition, the outcome of EU elections has casted doubts on the future of green transition policies, which have been met with hostility from some right-wing political parties. More than 400 companies and industrial organisations have urged European leaders to commit to the European Green Deal. "We cannot allow disinformation and anti-green campaigns to dictate our future”, said a WWF representative in FT's Sustainable Views. Many experts see the continuing centrist majority in EU Parliament as a sign of hope for the Green Deal and appeal to newly elected policymakers' responsibility.