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regular-article-logo Wednesday, 12 June 2024

Emmanuel Macron calls shock early polls: President panics after defeat to Le Pen

His decision, announced in a television broadcast to the nation, was a measure of the tumult created by Macron’s severe defeat in elections to the European Parliament

Roger Cohen, Aurelien Breeden Paris Published 11.06.24, 06:09 AM
Emmanuel Macron in Oradour-sur-Glane, southwestern France, on Monday

Emmanuel Macron in Oradour-sur-Glane, southwestern France, on Monday AP/PTI

President Emmanuel Macron of France, battered by a crushing defeat from the extreme Right in European elections, dissolved the lower house of parliament on Sunday and called for legislative elections beginning on June 30.

His decision, announced in a television broadcast to the nation, was a measure of the tumult created by Macron’s severe defeat in elections to the European Parliament. Projections gave the National Rally, led by Marine Le Pen and her wildly popular protégé, Jordan Bardella, about 31.5 per cent of the vote, and Macron’s Renaissance party about 15.2 per cent.

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"The rise of nationalists and demagogues is a danger for our nation and for Europe," Macron said. "After this day, I cannot go on as though nothing has happened."

The French leader has always been a passionate supporter of the 27-nation EU, seeing it as the sole means for Europe to count in the world and calling on it to achieve "strategic autonomy" through ever-greater integration. But the political winds have turned and many French people appear to favour Europe less, not more.

Macron’s decision, on the eve of the summer Olympic Games that begin in Paris in July, ushered in a period of deep political uncertainty in France. If the National Rally repeats its performance in national elections, the country could become nearly ungovernable, with Macron confronting a parliament hostile to everything he believes in.

"It's a serious, weighty decision," he acknowledged. "But above all, it's an act of trust" in French voters, he said.

French parliamentary elections take place in two rounds. The second round will be held on July 7, less than a month from now.

Given France’s important place at the heart of the EU, the European election result was a significant sign of a strong rightward drift in Europe, driven mainly by concerns over uncontrolled immigration. The nationalist Right has also been far more ambivalent than Macron and other western leaders about supporting Ukraine.

Le Pen, in an exultant speech, said she welcomed Macron’s decision.

“We are ready to exercise power if the French people place their trust in us,” Le Pen told a cheering crowd of supporters in Paris. “We’re ready to turn the country around.”

New York Times News Service

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