Footballer Mbappé jumps into French politics and urges youth to vote against 'extremists'
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Footballer Mbappé jumps into French politics and urges youth to vote against 'extremists'

France's star footballer Kylian Mbappé urged voters to stand against "extremist" parties, as campaigning in the country's parliamentary elections kicked off.

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President Emmanuel Macron called a snap election earlier this month, following a victory for his rival Marine Le Pen's right-wing National Rally in European elections.

With less than two weeks before the vote, his centrist alliance risks being squeezed by new coalitions on the left and right.

On Saturday, police estimated that a quarter of a million people protested across France against the prospect of the far-right coming to power.

Speaking in Germany ahead of France's opening Euro 2024 fixture on Sunday night, Mbappé urged young voters to reject "extremists", who he said were "at the gates of power".

"We have an opportunity to choose the future of the country and we have to emphasise the importance of the task," he added. But the forward admitted he was concerned about the prospect of widespread apathy among younger voters.

Mbappé didn't name those he considered to be extremists, but was responding to a question about his teammate Marcus Thuram, who said he wanted to keep the far-right National Rally party from power during a recent interview.

The party was quick to attack Mbappé for his comments. Nicolas Conquer, a National Rally candidate, told the BBC's Newshour programme that it "doesn't feel right for a sportsman from the national team to give directions on how people should vote".

Candidates had until Sunday evening to register for the 577 seats in the lower house National Assembly ahead of the official start of campaigning from Monday.

Mr Macron’s dissolving of parliament was intended to “create a new parliamentary majority," former Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, who leads a party allied to the president's bloc, told BFMTV.

The opening days of the campaign have seen new alliances emerge on the extreme left and right of France's politics.

A new left-wing alliance - the New Popular Front that takes in Socialists, Greens and hard-leftist France Unbowed (LFI) - had been appearing to take shape in recent days.

But the cohesion on the left has already shown signs of splintering, with the LFI's figurehead, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, proving to be too divisive a figure for some.

Meanwhile, on the right, a furious row has broken out in the Republicans party, after its leader - Eric Ciotti - agreed an electoral pact with the far-right.

His party initially sought to expel him - in a move which prompted Mr Ciotti to lock the party's headquarters - before a court reinstated him over the weekend. Opponents within the Republicans are now running a candidate against him in his constituency.

Elsewhere, the country’s former socialist President Francois Hollande announced on Saturday he would run for parliament again in the latest political twist.

His party, the Socialists, merely said it "takes note" of Mr Hollande's move.

'Disaster for the country'

Prime Minister Gabriel Attal, who is leading the campaign for the president's bloc, said voters had three choices.

The left-wing Popular Front and the far-right National Rally would both be "a disaster for the country", he said.

"There's a third bloc... that we are leading," he told the RFL broadcaster.

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The first round of voting takes place on 30 June, with the decisive second round coming seven days later.

President Macron was due to return to the domestic campaign this week after engagements at the G7 summit in Italy and the Ukraine peace conference in Switzerland.

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