Macron risks snap election to stop far right

Henry

French President Emmanuel Macron has taken the biggest gamble of his political career by calling for early legislative elections to prevent the rise of the far-right, with an outcome that could be decisive for his political future.

France will go to the polls on June 30 to vote for a new national assembly, with a second round on July 7, Macron said in a national address.

The stunning announcement came after EU election projections showed the far-right National Rally (RN) had more than doubled the votes of its centrist alliance in the polls.

The daily newspaper Liberation trumpeted it as “the ultimate gamble” on Monday.

Macron mentioned in his speech that far-right parties in France won almost 40% of votes.

“This is a situation I cannot fall in love with. I cannot act if nothing has happened,” Macron said.

The presidential camp now has only three weeks to gain ground in the RN, in a short but intense campaign before France hosts the Olympic Games in July and August in Paris.

With an expected turnout of just over 52% in the European elections, Macron’s allies will hope to attract voters who initially stayed home to stop the right-wing.

The best possible outcome for Macron is for his centrist alliance to win back the majority it lost in the 2022 elections and give new impetus to the remaining three years of his presidency.

A nightmare outcome for him will be that the RN achieves a majority victory. This will probably result in its leader, Jordan Bardella, a protégé of three-time presidential candidate Marine Le Pen, becoming prime minister in an awkward cooperation situation.

A middle scenario, analysts say, would be an anti-extremism coalition between Macron’s centrists and the traditional right-wing Republicans or even left-wing Socialists.

Celine Bracq, director general of the polling agency Odoxa, describes Macron’s announcement as a “poker move” and “extremely risky” at a time when there is a “strong desire to punish the president” among the French.

“In all probability, in the wake of the European elections, the RN can have a majority in the National Assembly, and why not an absolute majority?”

Luc Rouban, political scientist at Sciences Po in Paris, says Macron wants to “tighten up” the RN with his sudden election announcement, arguing that the party will find it difficult to field quality candidates for the 577 seats in the National Assembly.

The communist party leader Fabien Roussel says the left must work together on a pact for France.

Mujtaba Rahman, managing director for Europe at the Eurasia Group, also labels Macron’s actions as a big gamble.

“There is a serious risk of cohabitation,” he said, referring to a situation in which a president and prime minister from opposing political parties must find a way to manage the country together.

“The most likely outcome is more fragmentation, more of a dead end and chaos. A total paralysis.”

An adviser to the president said on condition of anonymity that Macron’s camp is aiming for victory. “Taking risks is part of the DNA of Macron’s camp.”

The right-wing head of the Paris region and former presidential candidate Valerie Pecresse sees things differently. “To dissolve the parliament, without giving anyone time to organize and without a campaign, is to play Russian roulette with the country’s fate,” she wrote on the social media platform X.