Press Review: Italians Rally Behind a Dancing Giorgia Meloni, as France Waltzes Toward Civil War

Plus, too, a Gen Z Cypriot best known for hugging Elon Musk accedes to the European Parliament.

AP/Michel Euler
Protesters at Paris, June 15, 2024. AP/Michel Euler

Electoral turmoil in America, or the chance of it, is still several months away, but in Europe the curtains are already raised. The French love being at center stage and right now that is where they are — though as per the Gallic norm, it is mostly for all the wrong reasons. 

Following President Macron’s shock decision to liquidate parliament and call for snap legislative elections, candidates had until Sunday night to register for the 577 seats in the Assemblée nationale.

Pundits have likened the frenzy of activity ahead of the first round of voting on June 30 to a megadose of reality television, but some top politicians see the potential for things taking a potentially darker turn. As in civil war, or something approximating it.

A week after Mr. Macron’s political shock therapy — widely seen as a bid to stanch the tide of popular support for the National Rally’s Jordan Bardella, a former French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, condemned the maneuver.  

Mr. Sarkozy, who held France’s highest office from May 2007 to May 2012, told the Sunday Journal newspaper that the dissolution of parliament  “constitutes a major risk for the country.” 

He added that “giving the French a voice to justify the dissolution is a curious argument since this is precisely what more than 25 million French people had just done at the polls…the risk is greater that they will confirm their anger rather than refute it.”

That there is outrage in the heavy summer air is undeniable. Consider the convulsions of the Républicains party — which Mr. Sarkozy once led in its previous iteration as the UMP party. Last week the party rank and file voted to oust the party leader Éric Ciotti after he said on live television that he wished to forge an alliance with the ascendant National Rally. 

After that however, he not only insisted that he remained president, but he barricaded himself in his office, insisting he is still party leader. Is he, though? Following a weekend that saw a number of protests against the National Rally, the infighting in the Républicains’s ring was still in progress. 

Mr. Sarkozy’s warning dovetails with that of the political commentator  Raphaël LLorca, who writing in the left-wing Le Monde stated that Mr. Macron’s decision to dissolve the lower chamber sparked a kind of “political psychosis” in France that “psychologically authorized the liquidation of all political limits.”

If all this seems more difficult to keep up with than the Kardashians, don’t say we didn’t warn you. 

What is almost flabbergasting is the alarm ringing across much of the American and European press about the stunning rise of Mr. Bardella, who despite or because of the battles now raging across the French political spectrum looks increasingly likely to become the country’s next prime minister. 

Consider this hollow nugget from the AP: “the uneasy coalition of parties from the far-left to the center-left is campaigning together against the prospect that the two-round June 30 and July 7 election could produce France’s first far-right government since the Nazi occupation.”

Or from the Financial Times’ Gideon Rachman: “From France to America, the far right is on the march.” As if voters casting ballots in a democratic process was tantamount to a grand military parade.

In the weeks ahead, expect facile attempts to link the programmatic conservatism of an essentially reformed “far right” National Rally to all things dark, nefarious, and imagined. None of that will fly far in Italy, however, where mainstream newspapers like Turin’s La Stampa are doubling down on their insistence that Prime Minister Meloni is not far right. And rightly so, because she really isn’t. Not only that, but it turns out she is one heck of a dancer, too.


A famous quote from the original Mad Vlad, Lenin, is making the rounds in France at the moment: “There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen.” That seems to be the case in and around Paris in the run up to a fractious vote on June 30. What precipitated all the tumult, though, were those seemingly innocuous elections earlier this month in the European Parliament— which, it is worth remembering, is one of the most corrupt and ineffectual legislative bodies in modern times. 

Even its composition borders on the risible. 

The inroads made by far right parties in that troubled house are by now a matter of historical fact, but less widely known is the underwhelming caliber of some of the new kids on the bloc, so to speak. One of whom is the 24-year-old Cypriot Youtuber known as Fidias — full name, Fidias Panayiotou, who rose to Internet fame in 2022 by staking out and subsequently hugging Elon Musk

Mr. Panayiotou ran on an independent ticket and garnered nearly a fifth of Cyprus’s votes. Following his win he said that the established parties “should serve people and not their personal or party interests.”  He also said that he does not know the European Parliament works — in his defense, does anyone? 

And if they do, is the body capable of doing much else besides throwing electoral politics elsewhere into disarray? You might ask another newly elected European parliamentarian, 76-year-old Galata Alexandraki, who won a seat for Greece’s nationalist Greek Solution party. The so-called “butcher of Thrace” has no political experience but is a seasoned, albeit retired cattle breeder. Somehow, a perfect fit for the growing field of muck that is Brussels.

The New York Sun

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