France's Macron defends snap elections, lays out battle plan to defeat far-right

France AP - Michel Euler
AP - Michel Euler

President Emmanuel Macron has defended his decision to call snap elections and unveiled plans that aim to secure a 'clear majority' for the rest of the five-year term and counter the far-right National Rally after its strong showing in last weekend's European elections vote.

"The votes cast [in theEuropean election] put the far-right forces at almost 40 percent and the extremes [on the right and left] at almost 50 percent. This is a political fact that cannot be ignored," Macron told a press conference on Wednesday.

"Returning to the sovereign people is, in my opinion, the only republican decision in this context."

Macron is facing criticism, even within his own Renaissance grouping, over his decision to hold snap elections on 30 June with a run-off on 7 July.

He insisted that the opposition was planning a vote of no confidence in the autumn and the potential blockage in parliamentary business justified the dissolving of the National Assembly.

It will be "test of truth between those who choose to strengthen their own hand and those who chose to strengthen the hand of France," he said.

Forge a democratic alliance

France's leader said the "seriousness" of the situation today "requires us to change our methods", adding "we will have to govern differently, with respect, calm and sincerity".

He urged rival parties on both sides of the political centre to join him in forging a democratic alliance against Marine Le Pen's far-right National Rally (RN) for the upcoming elections.

"I do not want to give the keys to power to the extreme right in 2027, so I fully accept having triggered a movement to provide clarification," he said, charging that RN policies would impoverish workers and retirees.

He called on "many of our compatriots and political leaders who do not recognise themselves in the extremist fever" to "build a new project ... a coalition to govern, a coalition to act in the service of the French and for the republic".

He acknowledged making mistakes, notably on the issue of youth housing, saying the French had expressed their indignation and anger but felt they were not being heard.

Building a programme

Macron was thin on detail of what his party's campaign programme would be, insisting that it would depend on who joined this centrist coalition.

But he pledged to take a firmer hand on questions of immigration, security and justice, arguing that a far left bloc prone to antisemitism would be too "lax," while the extreme right would bulldoze France's constitutional rule of law.

In a dig at the leader of the conservative Republicans party, Macron decried political horsetrading over the last few days, saying "the mask has come off" some parties seeking to forge "unnatural alliances."

Republicans party chief Eric Ciotti's appeal for an alliance between his party's candidates and the RN in a snap parliamentary election has deeply split the conservative party.

Other announcements

The president announced that a voting reform that triggered deadly riots in the French Pacific territory of New Caledonia would be suspended in the light of the snap polls.

He also affirmed that pensions would be indexed to inflation, following criticism over last year's unpopular pension reform. 

The use of smartphones would be banned for children under 11, and social media for those under 15.

(with newswires)

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Started: 02-07-2024 | Ends: 31-10-2024