France: Growing unease in Paris suburbs over National Rally's lead ahead of election

It is fair to say the people of France weren't expecting to vote in a national election this summer.

It is also fair to suggest the result will probably come as a shock - both to the nation and the rest of the world - with the electorate now strongly favouring the hard right.

The party of Marine Le Pen, called National Rally, is well ahead in the polls with some 37% of decided voters.

A coalition of parties on the left, called New Popular Front, stand on 28% while President Emmanuel Macron's centrist Together block is well behind on 20%.

Just two days before the first voting round in parliamentary elections, it seems France is preparing to jump into the unknown.

We found growing unease in a suburb of Paris called Drancy.

One of the poorest and most populous communities in the entire country, it is also the place where Marine Le Pen's candidate for prime minister happened to grow up.

His name is Jordan Bardella - a mild-mannered 28-year-old with a taste for fine suits.

So, would local residents take pride in his dramatic political rise? The answer was emphatic "non".

The son of Italian migrants, Mr Bardella was born and grew up in Drancy - yet it is an experience he has very publicly disowned.

He claims the violence and drug dealing that he witnessed as a child have steered him towards the party's tough anti-immigration and anti-Islam policies.

If elected, he says National Rally will drastically cut immigration and may prevent dual nationals from doing unspecified "sensitive" jobs.

The idea that France is for the French - not immigrants or foreign nationals - lies at the heart of his message.

Yet this political offer is greeted with cynicism by his former neighbours in Drancy.

We spoke to Gregoire who helps run an organisation that provides young people with skills and work experience.

"When is the last time you saw Bardella here?" I asked.

"I've never seen him here," he responded. And the way he talks about Drancy?

"He criticises everywhere, not just Drancy. His new way of communicating, his marketing, is to latch onto an issue and feed voters' fears.

"When people are lost, they're just guided by their fears."

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We spoke to Ibrahim - a participant in the same scheme.

"We are quite worried because we are frightened that he would cancel all the funding for an association like ours.

"The first people who will be affected are the youngsters, particularly those not in education and are unemployed."

Concern about the direction of France is keenly felt beyond the country's borders as well. National Rally, the successor to far-right group National Front, has never been much of a friend to the European Union, NATO - or the West.

It is a populist moment that is also a dangerous moment, say analysts, who are waiting for the French public to make their mind known.