PARIS: France was on Sunday bracing for a frenetic fortnight of election campaigning for snap polls called by President Emmanuel Macron to combat the far right, as star footballer Kylian Mbappe waded into the febrile environment with a warning not to vote for extremes.

The deadline for candidates to register for the 577 seats in the lower house National Assembly passed at 6:00 pm (1600 GMT). Official campaigning starts from midnight for the June 30 first round, with the decisive second round on July 7.

The alliance led by centrist Macron, who called the snap polls some three years early after the far right trounced his party in EU Parliament elections, now has just under two weeks of campaigning to close what still appears to be a gaping gap to the far right.

The outcome of the poll remains far from clear, with many in France still baffled over why Macron called an election that could leave the far-right National Rally (RN) leading the government and its leader Jordan Bardella, 28, as prime minister.

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But another likely outcome is a hung parliament with no overall majority followed by weeks of coalition-building and potentially even more elections.

One of the most high-profile of the last candidates to register was Marie-Caroline Le Pen, elder sister of the RN’s three-time presidential candidate Marine Le Pen, standing for the party in the central Sarthe region.

Her daughter Nolwenn Olivier is Bardella’s ex-partner.

- ‘Young and inexperienced’ -

Mbappe, representing France at the Euro 2024 tournament in Germany, said he was “against extremes and divisive ideas” and urged young people to vote at a “crucial moment” in French history.

The striker defended comments made on Saturday by his teammate Marcus Thuram, saying he “had not gone too far” in calling on the country “to fight every day to stop” the RN winning the elections.

“Today we can all see that extremists are very close to winning power and we have the opportunity to choose the future of our country,“ Mbappe said.

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France’s men’s football team has long been seen as a beacon for diversity in the country. Late on Saturday, the French Football Federation urged against “any form of pressure and political use of the French team”.

More than 60 French sports personalities signed a letter in sports daily L’Equipe calling on voters to reject the far right.

They included former tennis star Yannick Noah, ex-rugby players Serge Betsen and Fulgence Ouedraogo and track athlete Marie-Jose Perec, a three-time Olympic champion.

- Left, right realign -

Macron’s dissolving of parliament after the French far right’s victory in the EU vote has swiftly redrawn the lines of French politics.

A new left-wing alliance, the New Popular Front that takes in Socialists and hard-leftists, faced its first crisis over the weekend after some prominent MPs from the hard-left France Unbowed (LFI) party found they had not been put forward to stand again.

But Adrien Quatennens, a close ally of LFI figurehead Jean-Luc Melenchon, withdrew his candidacy, which had sparked anger due to a conviction for domestic violence.

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On the right, the decision of Eric Ciotti, leader of the Republicans (LR), to seek an election pact with the RN provoked fury inside the party and a move by its leadership to dismiss him, which a Paris court blocked on Friday.

They have now put up a Republicans candidate against Ciotti in his own constituency.

Former right-wing president Nicolas Sarkozy told the Journal du Dimanche newspaper that Ciotti should have consulted the party leadership over the coalition and put it to a members’ vote.

He also questioned the wisdom of backing Bardella as premier. Bardella has “never been in charge of anything”, said Sarkozy. “Can you lead France when you are so young and inexperienced?”

- ‘Surprise not enough’ -

Macron is this week due to return to the domestic campaign fray from engagements abroad at the G7 summit in Italy and the Ukraine peace conference in Switzerland.

He has been advised by colleagues within his Renaissance ruling party to let the considerably more popular Prime Minister Gabriel Attal, 35, take the lead in the campaign.

But the stakes are huge for Macron. He risks becoming a lame-duck president until his term expires in 2027, as he has ruled out stepping down whatever the result of the polls.

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Socialist former prime minister Lionel Jospin, who in 2002 famously bowed out of politics after the far-right’s Jean-Marie Le Pen, Marine’s father, kept him out of the presidential elections run-off, warned of the perils for Macron.

Jospin, who rarely speaks in public, said Macron had forced France into a “hurried” campaign and was “giving the RN a chance to come to power in France”.

“It’s not responsible,“ he told Le Monde, accusing Macron of “arrogance”.