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France gears up for legislative elections after right-wing gains in EU polls

By RFI
France AFP - HANNAH MCKAY
MON, 10 JUN 2024 LISTEN
AFP - HANNAH MCKAY

French President Emmanuel Macron said on Monday he was confident that the French would make the right choice in snap legislative elections he called on Sunday after his centrist alliance was beaten by the far right in EU elections. France will vote for a new parliament (National Assembly) on 30 June, with a second round on 7 July.

"I am confident in the capacity of the French people to make the right choice for themselves and for future generations. My sole ambition is to be useful to our country that I love so much," Macron said on X.

His shock announcement came after EU election projections showed the far-right National Rally (RN) had scored more than double the votes of his centrist alliance in the French vote.

In his address to the nation on Sunday, Macron noted that in total far-right parties in France had won almost 40 percent of the vote.

"It is a situation to which I cannot resign myself ... I cannot act as if nothing had happened," Macron added.

Roll of the dice

Macron's unexpected decision, which amounts to a roll of the dice on his political future, could hand major political power to the far-right after years on the sidelines, and neuter his presidency three years before it ends.

"This will be the most consequential parliamentary election for France and for the French in the history of the Fifth Republic," Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire told RTL radio.

The legislative vote will take place on 30 June, less than a month before the start of the Paris Olympics, with a second round on 7 July.

The outcome will likely depend on how committed leftist and center-right voters are to the idea of blocking the far-right from power.

Analysts said Macron's decision aimed to make the best of his weak position, reclaiming the initiative and forcing Le Pen's National Rally (RN) into election mode faster than it would have liked.

Macron's surprise move appeared to have caught some far-right leaders off-guard.

RN leader Bardella a candidate for PM

"We didn't think it would be immediately after the European elections, even if we wanted it to be," the deputy chairman of the RN, Sebastien Chenu, said on RTL Radio, adding: "Elections are rarely a gift and in this context, they aren't."

He called for right-wing lawmakers from outside the RN to swell its ranks in its battle to beat Macron, and said the party's president, 28-year-old Jordan Bardella, would be its candidate for prime minister.

Led by Bardella, the RN won about 32 percent of the vote on Sunday, more than double the Macron ticket's 15 percent, according to exit polls. The Socialists came within a whisker of Macron, with 14 percent.

Macron's Renaissance party currently has 169 lower house lawmakers, out of a total of 577. The RN has 88.

If the RN wins a majority, Macron would still direct defence and foreign policy, but would lose the power to set the domestic agenda, from economic policy to security.

(with newswires)

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