epa11326469 French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal attends the ceremonies to mark the end of World War II at the Arc de Triomphe, in Paris, France, 08 May 2024. EPA-EFE/Johanna Geron / POOL MAXPPP OUT


French PM Attal goes head-to-head with National Rally chief Bardella


In what has been seen as a showdown that set the stage for France’s political future, French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal and National Rally (RN) President Jason Bardella went head-to-head in an often fractious debate.

During the May 23 clash, Attal started by highlighting what he said was the RN’s wavering stance on the European Union.

“I’m not like you, changing my mind about everything and not taking responsibility for past statements. Saying ‘we want to get out of Europe’ and then ‘we want to stay in,'” he said.

The debate reached a boiling point over Russia. Attal repeatedly hammered the RN for its alleged ties to Moscow, echoing French President Emmanuel Macron’s 2022 presidential campaign accusations.

“Your party needed money. Russia needed a party in Europe precisely to weaken Europe from within,” he claimed.

Bardella fired back, condemning Attal’s tactics as uncalled for, insisting that RN has been clear that it condemns Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.

“It’s not up to the Prime Minister of France to have arguments that are so far below the belt,” he said.

“In the European Parliament, I have always been very clear and I have always condemned without the slightest ambiguity the aggression of Ukraine by Russia, which is today a multi-dimensional threat,” he added.

He then reversed Attal’s accusations and accused the French Government of hypocrisy, citing Macron’s previous dealings regarding Russia.

An aggressive and hostile Attal seemed to have Bardella often on the defensive during the debate.

In one statement that shocked some observers, Bardella said: “I don’t need to read the laws before I vote on them,” perhaps illustrating what many regard as a controversial approach to legislative responsibility.

Still, Attal’s aggressive strategy during this debate was probably not enough to rescue a so-far poor European Parliament elections campaign run by the Macron camp.

Two weeks before the critical June 9 vote, the debate underscored the stark divide between the groups and, in fact, reinforced the RN’s position as the leading opposition force.

Regarding the debate itself, Republican (LR) François-Xavier Bellamy lashed out at the public service France Television for staging the Attal/Bardella duel, labelling it “a staged debate”.

“We are witnessing a democratic crisis,” he said.

“What can justify confrontation? One is the Prime Minister and not a candidate for this election,” he added.