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The Debate

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A live debate on the topic of the day, with four guests. From Monday to Thursday at 7:10pm Paris time.


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A live debate on the topic of the day, with four guests. From Monday to Thursday at 7:10pm Paris time.



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The only choice? Biden resists pressure to bow out of Trump rematch

There is a paradox that is often forgotten: As the United States’ share of the global economy continues to grow, its tech giants rule the world, its culture reaches the whole planet, even where dictators try to put up firewalls. So is this the best its democracy can do? In these volatile times, citizens in the US have the choice between two aging men, one who stands charged with trying to overturn the 2020 election result, and the other whose fitness is doubted by many within his own camp. We will ask about Joe Biden’s insistence on staying in the race and why it’s proving so hard to contemplate alternate scenarios. Is it really too late? The last time, millions followed Donald Trump when he made good on his threat to challenge the result if he lost. What further erosion of trust in government? Here in France, snap elections with no clear winner are also testing institutions. Why do politics seem broken on both sides of the Atlantic? Produced by Alessandro Xenos, Rebecca Gnignati and Juliette Brown.


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Old alliance? Biden dismisses doubts as NATO marks 75th anniversary

World leaders meeting in Washington for the NATO summit were sold a show of strength celebrating the Alliance’s 75th anniversary. But beyond the photo ops, there is a feeding frenzy. The White House was swamped by questions over the fitness of a US president who is six years older than the defence and security pact that in those days bound together nations against the threat of Soviet expansion. Long before Monday’s bombing of a children’s hospital in Kyiv, NATO leaders already knew they were coming up to decision time: whether to keep helping Ukraine defend itself or risk direct confrontation with Moscow by giving Volodymyr Zelensky the planes and missiles his country needs to take Vladimir Putin’s war to Russian soil. With the US and France preoccupied with domestic politics, NATO’s has a crucial role to play this year with isolationist advocates on the march on both sides of the Atlantic. Produced by Alessandro Xenos, Rebecca Gnignati and Juliette Brown.


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League of nationalists: How far can the new Le Pen-Orban alliance go?

The optics are startling. Russia bombed a children’s hospital in Kyiv while Hungary’s Viktor Orban, who currently holds the Council of the European Union’s rotating presidency, wrapped up a peace tour that included stops in Moscow and Baku before Beijing. At no point during his Kremlin visit did Orban denounce Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine nor display the EU flag. Following France's legislative elections, Orban announced that his Fidesz party is joining forces with Marine Le Pen’s National Rally (RN) in the next European parliament. Their new voting bloc called Patriots for Europe is to be chaired by Le Pen’s lead candidate during the French elections – 28-year old Jordan Bardella. Will the RN stick to its newfound support for Ukraine? Will the duo supplant Italy’s Giorgia Meloni as the leader of the nationalist right in Europe? After recent European elections, it is the start of a new term in Brussels. The last five years saw a pooling of resources in the fight against Covid, the first-ever mutualisation of debt among the 27 state members, the Green Deal, the emergence a common European defence strategy. As Orban and others travel to the NATO summit in Washington, what is in store for Europe the next five years? Produced by Alessandro Xenos, Rebecca Gnignati and Juliette Brown.


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Who to govern France? No clear majority as voters thwart far-right surge

This time, the polls got it wrong. The French stared at the prospect of a far-right win and – despite the start of summer vacation – voted in their greatest numbers since 1981 to stop that populist surge. Instead, a left-wing alliance cobbled together three weeks ago after President Emmanuel Macron's shock dissolution of parliament now boasts the largest bloc. But it is far, very far from an outright majority. With Marine Le Pen's National Rally hitting another record high in seats and the prospect of another snap election in 12 months if parliament remains stuck in three-way gridlock with the centre right, can the French do the unthinkable and be like the Germans? That is to say: compromise, find creative solutions, build coalitions based on party platforms, not Bonapartist personality contests? Emmanuel Macron promised the snap elections would clarify France's political landscape. Instead, with power back in the hands of parliament, politicians are going to have to draw the lessons from this tumultuous election cycle and address the grievances of an electorate that wants change. Produced by Alessandro Xenos, Rebecca Gnignati and Juliette Brown.


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France's frenzied finale: Will last-minute deals thwart far-right win?

The ink on the campaign posters barely had time to dry. Yet, France’s frenzied snap legislative election races are nearly over. President Macron hoped to clear the air with his shock dissolution of parliament but after the far-right’s unprecedented surge and so many unholy alliances and tactical withdrawals ahead of the runoffs, good luck predicting the makeup of the next National Assembly. One certainty, Marine Le Pen’s National Rally will boast the most seats. But how many? How close or how far from an outright majority? After the highest turnout in decades in the first round, what will voters think of their options come Sunday? And who do they want to govern France? Yes, the ballots will have been counted but the horse-trading will be far from over. Can a nation that historically prefers Bonapartist figureheads to Nordic-style policy compromises try its hand at grand coalitions or technocratic arbiters? Or should we brace ourselves for a whole new level of uncertainty? Produced by Alessandro Xenos, Rebecca Gnignati and Juliette Brown.


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Revenge of the moderates? UK's Labour set for landslide win in general election

While French voters ponder the temptation of the far right, across the Channel they are also campaigning. But there, it feels like the revenge of the moderates. Out with Little Britain Brexiteers, out with Jeremy Corbyn's hard left, in with a more genteel version of the Labour Party. Before 2016, Britain always seemed like that isle of temperance where the tabloid headlines screamed, but that was just a bit of fun to sell newspapers. So what next for Brexit Britain… and the Conservatives, which have become the party of Rwanda deportation schemes for asylum seekers? Does it, too, swing back to the centre or double down? If he wins by a predicted landslide, Labour leader Keir Starmer will have managed to capture the silent majority that's not radical. But for how long? With a platform that's light on specifics, he knows he cannot be all things to all people for long. Produced by Alessandro Xenos, Rebecca Gnignati and Juliette Brown.


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Democrats in panic mode? Biden rejects calls to quit US re-election race

A sitting president who goes for it without reading the room. We could be talking about French President Emmanuel Macron's shock dissolution of parliament that this coming Sunday could usher in France's first far-right government since Nazi occupation. Or we could be talking about a floundering US President Joe Biden, who at 81 broke his campaign promise to only seek one term in office and who turned in a disastrously weak performance in last Thursday's debate with Donald Trump. Will Biden persist? What is preventing Trump from returning to power through the ballot box in November? More broadly, why are voters in 2024 ready to forgive or condone what happened in 2021? With Covid, the climate emergency and superpower tensions with China and Russia, Western thinkers had thought voters wanted to revert back to a strengthening of institutions and alliances. Instead, familiar nativist figures who had been written off have come roaring back. Why? And what's stopping them? Produced by Alessandro Xenos, Rebecca Gnignati and Juliette Brown.


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At the gates of power: Can French left, centrists stop far right in second round?

It turns out the polls did get it right. One in three French voters chose the far right in Sunday’s first round of snap legislative elections, putting Marine Le Pen's party on the brink of power with an unprecedented score for an extreme party that's never before won in France through the ballot box. With one short week before the run-off, we ask why and what it will take for rivals to coalesce. Politics indeed makes for strange bedfellows. With a 577-seat National Assembly, we ask just how hard it will be for old rivals to hold their noses and vote for each other in the more than 400 run-offs where the far right has a chance. More broadly, what has changed in the two short years since the last parliament got voted in in the wake of President Emmanuel Macron's re-election? What consequences will his decision to dissolve said parliament have on France, Europe and beyond? Produced by Alessandro Xenos, Rebecca Gnignati and Juliette Brown.


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What if the polls get it right? Far right still in lead ahead of snap French elections

Don't blink, or you'll have missed the shortest electoral campaign in the history of France’s Fifth Republic. Will nineteen days of canvassing have moved the needle since Emmanuel Macron's surprise dissolution of parliament on the night of the European elections? Not according to polls. They suggest the president may regret his decision to clear the air. The far right has never been closer to power since the Nazi collaborator regime of Vichy. An even shorter sprint starts on Sunday night at 8pm local time, when the polls close in the first round of voting. France's legislative elections are actually 577 individual races that feature a second round the following week. What alliances could we see? What are the chances of an outright majority for Marine Le Pen's National Rally? What message do citizens of the European Union's second-largest economy really want to send for a national contest … with worldwide consequences? Produced by Siobhan Silke, Rebecca Gnignati and Juliette Brown.


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From Trump to Le Pen: Why the far-right surge?

Many who read the polls might say 2024 seems like the year of living dangerously. No one is arguing about who's got the momentum, only four days out from snap legislative elections here in France and on the eve of the first presidential candidates' debate in the United States. French voters can argue that they've tried all the others, so why not the far right? They also assume that Marine Le Pen's party will be less Eurosceptic once confronted with the hard reality of governing, like what has happened in Italy with Giorgia Meloni. But how, then, to explain Donald Trump's brand of politics? He is not untested. On his watch, supporters tried to overturn the outgoing US president's electoral defeat by force on January 6, 2021. Why does he have the momentum? President Emmanuel Macron has been blasted for gambling away his relative majority on a snap election that does not give citizens enough time to reflect. Americans will have had four long years to do so. In both cases, are the one-third of voters solidly behind illiberal parties bigger risk takers than Macron? Or do they feel that they have nothing to lose? Produced by Aline Bottin, Rebecca Gnignati and Juliette Brown.


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Iran's unexpected election: Can snap presidential poll revive voter interest?

When Iran's ageing supreme leader is urging citizens to get out and vote, you can only guess that what's really at stake is turnout. We ask if there's more than meets the eye to a heavily-vetted presidential contest precipitated by last month's death of Ebrahim Raisi in a helicopter crash. To stop Iran's sliding abstention rate, this time organisers allowed a candidate billed as a reformist to stand alongside five hardliners. They include regime heavyweights, each of whom – in the land that invented chess – has his own agenda and strategy. So what kind of a snapshot will Friday's vote offer for an under-sanctions regime that's for now put a lid on the "Women, Life, Freedom" protests of 2022 and cosied up to sometimes rival Russia? How far does the showdown go with an Israel whose leadership wants to dial up the fighting with proxy militia Hezbollah in Lebanon, and a US that is – at least until that other election in November – trying to keep a lid on it all? Produced by Alessandro Xenos, Elena Colonna, Rebecca Gnignati and Juliette Brown.


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France's great divide: Can far right lure struggling middle classes?

In the blink of an eye, France is already into the final days of campaigning; a speed-dating exercise that has got the far right more than ever knocking on the doors of power. Polls suggest that Emmanuel Macron's surprise decision to dissolve parliament just two weeks ago has not sparked a rethink. On the contrary, Marine Le Pen and Jordan Bardella continue to carry the momentum from their record tally at European elections earlier this month. In fact, a full one-quarter of French voters told an Ipsos poll for the Financial Times that they trust the National Rally more on the economy than Emmanuel Macron's centrists or the left-wing alliance. Other than an unconstitutional pledge to reduce benefits and public services for immigrants, the party that once spooked voters with its now-defunct call to leave the euro still remains fuzzy on how it will pay for all its campaign promises. So why the leap of faith? Under Macron, unemployment is down and foreign investment is up. But a soaring cost-of-living crisis has stoked genuine fear that middle-class families could slide into poverty. Put the far right's great replacement theory to one side. For these citizens, it feels like a great demotion. Who can best address their genuine concerns? Produced by Alessandro Xenos, Aline Bottin, Elena Colonna, Rebecca Gnignati and Juliette Brown.


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Red carpet treatment: What's at stake in Putin's state visit to North Korea?

You know you've got a reclusive regime when an outside world hungry for clues salivates at the prospect of a visit by Vladimir Putin. Putin is on his first visit to North Korea in 24 years. We ask our panel what they’ve parsed from reviews of honour guards, official communiqués and hagiographic state media coverage. More broadly, do these images project strength or weakness? Will Putin get the mortar shells and missiles he needs for his war in Ukraine? Will Kim Jong Un get the sanctions-busting link to the outside world that Pyongyang needs to ease some of its dependence on that other neighbour, China? And what about the spiking tensions with Pacific rivals, starting with South Korea? We ask about warning shots again this week across the 38th parallel and recent ballistic missile tests in the Pacific that have the South Koreans drawing closer to old rivals Japan. We focus a lot on Taiwan, but what about the Korean peninsula? Produced by Alessandro Xenos, Rebecca Gnignati and Louise Guibert.


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Netanyahu on all fronts: Can Israel keep up war in Gaza while taking on Hezbollah?

There has been no ceasefire in Gaza since November. And just as tensions were subsiding a little, fears are now growing over Lebanon. We ask, in light of the latest border incidents, whether initial fears of an all-out war between Israel and Hezbollah could still prove true. In hindsight, Iran's first-ever direct missile attacks on Israel back in April seemed like a symbolic gesture, but it certainly got Binyamin Netanyahu's top brass's attention. The same top brass is at loggerheads with the prime minister over the lack of an exit strategy in Gaza. Netanyahu has managed to steady his political ship despite foreign and domestic pressure to resign, to the point where he can do without the opposition in a unity war cabinet. By dissolving that war cabinet, he's stared down his own far-right coalition partners. But for how long? And how long can the rest of the world feel the spillover? In France, eight months of war in the Middle East have strained political alliances to the point where divisions could prove a factor in crucial snap legislative elections where every vote counts. Produced by Alessandro Xenos, Rebecca Gnignati and Melissa Kalaydjian


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Twelve days to convince: What outcome to French snap election campaign?

To Americans who complain that their election campaigns drag on for far too long, welcome to France where it is indeed a sprint, not a marathon. Here, politicians have 12 short days to convince in snap legislative elections that could redraw France – and Europe's – political landscape. Hard to believe it's only been a week since a far-right surge in European elections sparked Emmanuel Macron's shock decision to dissolve parliament. With the country split in three between a hastily concluded alliance of the left, the centre-right under Macron, and Marine Le Pen's National Rally, we ask which way the pendulum is about to swing and whether calls for a "Republican front" against the far right still resonate, even when they come from stars of the national football squad. France's president has been roundly criticised for taking too great a leap into the unknown with his "clear the air" strategy of sending citizens back to the polls. The question now is whether voters, too, are willing to take a gamble and flirt with a rollback of the French republic's universal values. Produced by Alessandro Xenos, Rebecca Gnignati and Juliette Brown.


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Meloni's moment: Italy hosts G7 summit amid far-right surge

What are summits about? Most of the time, minions and sherpas have long before agreed on policy points before the red carpet has even been rolled out. Arguably most important in a summit are the photo ops: a chance for politicians to show they are at the helm, helping to rule the world in a spirit of cooperation. So what does this lot rule over? Dateline the Puglia resort of Borgo Egnazia on Italy’s Adriatic coast. The radiant host is Giorgia Meloni, the far-right leader who finished tops in her country in last Sunday’s European elections. Watch all the other G7 leaders. How forced are the smiles for more mainstream incumbents? They’re either reeling from last Sunday, looking over their shoulder as they prepare to face electoral verdicts to come, or in some cases, both. French President Emmanuel Macron did so badly against the far right that he has called snap legislative elections. Does this summit mark the dying days of a certain kind of Western world order? That brings us to the other reason why summits matter: sidebar talks. Liberal democracy is not on the official agenda. So what kind of notes will those weakened incumbents trade on the sidelines as they do battle with a populist surge? Produced by Maya Yataghene, Rebecca Gnignati and Juliette Brown.


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Ukraine on borrowed time? Zelensky in Europe amid far-right surge

Let's start with the good news for Ukraine. Long-range weapons from the West have finally arrived, with more on the way, and the Russian offensive of the past month seems to be stalling. Now for the not-so-good news. As Volodymyr Zelensky lobbies a repair and reconstruction conference in Berlin, his country might be on borrowed time. We ask about plans to sell state assets to pay for the war and Western backers looking over their shoulders after Sunday's European elections. The far right National Rally, which borrowed money from Russia for a 2017 campaign loan, did so well in France that the president triggered snap legislative elections. Fears that supporting Ukraine could lead to World War Three resonate with Marine Le Pen's voters and the far left. That's the mood music that takes Zelensky from Berlin, to Thursday’s G7 summit, to the one he is organising this coming weekend in Switzerland in a bid to rally support for a long-term plan. What's at stake in the days ahead? Produced by Alessandro Xenos, Rebecca Gnignati and Juliette Brown.


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Eight months and counting: How to get Israel and Hamas to seal ceasefire deal?

When Hamas attacked Israel on October 7, everyone knew war would follow. But few probably expected it to last eight long months in one of the world's most densely populated areas. Will the latest hopes of a truce once again be dashed? Critics contend that for leaders on both sides, managing a war is easier than ending it. After all, they run the risk of being held to account once it's over. Yet this time, could outside pressure finally bear fruit? The opposition is quitting Israel's war cabinet. That gives Binyamin Netanyahu and his far-right coalition free rein, but also full responsibility. There is also the UN Security Council, which doesn't agree on anything these days, agreeing on a US ceasefire resolution. Can Netanyahu stick to his guns and can Hamas continue to hold innocent hostages in urban areas with no regard to the dangers exposed on innocent civilians all around? More broadly, how to finally get a deal over the line? Produced by Alessandro Xenos, Rebecca Gnignati and Juliette Brown.


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Macron's gamble: Will snap elections stop the rise of French far right?

First came the exit polls. Then, less than an hour later: a second shock. On the heels of the French far right’s record score in European elections, President Emmanuel Macron dissolved parliament and called surprise snap elections. Since losing his outright majority in parliament after his re-election as president in 2022, Macron had muddled through with a mixture of compromises and executive decrees. Now, suddenly, comes a lightning-fast three-week campaign before a June 30 first round of voting. Just how risky a gamble is this? Can Marine Le Pen's party ride the wave and win an outright majority? It's a tall order in a country where a two-round voting system safeguards against the extremes, but then again, who thought her National Rally party could win 89 seats the last time? We ask why a growing number of women and young people turned to the far right and how much France's return to the polls will resonate beyond its borders. What will the impact be on Europe and beyond? Which way will the pendulum swing? Produced by Alessandro Xenos, Rebecca Gnignati and Juliette Brown.


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D-Day, 80 years on: What have we learned?

D-Day is being commemorated, as this June 6 marks the 80th anniversary of what became known as The Longest Day. For the soldiers and for French civilians killed as part of the collateral damage of the liberation of their country, there's a complex legacy to one of the most compelling stories in military history. In this Debate we salute those who suffered, who made the ultimate sacrifice, who were tragic victims of the decisions taken in times of war. We also examine why we are where we are right now: in a world still gripped by conflict. Some even say we're on the brink of World War Three. Produced by Alessandro Xenos, Rebecca Gnignati and Juliette Brown. Read more‘History comes alive’ as last veterans mark 80 years since D-Day