President Macron urges French to make 'right choice' after surprise poll gamble

Analysts say the French leader has taken the extremely risky gamble of calling for snap polls in a bid to keep the far-right National Rally (RN) out of power.
France President Emmanuel Macron (Photo | AP)
France President Emmanuel Macron (Photo | AP)

PARIS: President Emmanuel Macron said Monday he was confident the French would make the "right choice" in snap elections he called after the far right inflicted a crushing defeat on his centrist alliance in EU elections.

His surprise move came after mainstream centrist parties kept an overall majority in the European Parliament in Sunday's poll, but the far right notched up a string of high-profile victories in Italy, Austria and France.

In Germany, where the three ruling coalition parties also performed dismally, centre-left Chancellor Olaf Scholz's spokesman on Monday ruled out a snap poll.

Analysts say the French leader has taken the extremely risky gamble of calling for snap polls in a bid to keep the far-right National Rally (RN) out of power when his second term ends in 2027.

"I am confident in the capacity of the French people to make the right choice for themselves and for future generations," Macron wrote on X on Monday morning.

"My sole ambition is to be useful to our country that I love so much."

Macron's announcement of elections for a new National Assembly on June 30, with a second round on July 7 in France, has sparked widespread alarm, even from within the ranks of his own party.

"By playing with fire, the head of state could end up by burning himself and dragging the entire country into the fire," Le Monde wrote in an editorial.

Lower house speaker Yael Braun-Pivet, a senior figure within Macron's party, on Monday morning appeared to express some dissent, indicating that forming a coalition with other parties could have been a better "path".

"The president believed that this path did not exist... I take note of the decision," she told the France 2 television channel.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, a Socialist, described the prospect of elections just weeks before the start of the Paris Olympics as "extremely unsettling".

But the International Olympic Committee chief Thomas Bach played down any direct impact on the event.

A far-right premier?

In a televised address late Sunday, Macron warned of the danger of "the rise of nationalists and demagogues" for France and its place in Europe.

Macron noted that, including the RN, far-right parties in France had managed to take almost 40 percent of the EU vote.

He hopes to win back the majority he lost in the lower house after winning a second term in 2022 legislative elections.

But some fear the anti-immigration RN could instead win, forcing Macron to work in an uncomfortable coalition with a far-right prime minister.

RN vice-president Sebastien Chenu on Monday said the party's 28-year-old leader Jordan Bardella would be its contender for the post.

His mentor Marine Le Pen, who was runner-up in the last two presidential elections, has remained party leader in parliament and is largely expected to run again in 2027.

The far right scored big in France, Italy and Austria, and also came second in Germany and the Netherlands.

The Kremlin, which hopes the far-right would have a softer line on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, said it was "attentively observing" the gains.

"While pro-Europeans so far retain their leadership positions, in time, based on what we see, the right-wing parties will be treading on their heels," spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists.

'Unprecedented gravity'

The RN came in first with more than 31 percent of votes in France -- its score was more than double that of Macron's list with 14 percent.

The Socialists and far-left France Unbowed trailed behind with 13 and nine percent each.

Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, who hails from Macron's party, warned the polls would have "the most serious consequences in the history of the Fifth Republic", which began in 1958.

"It's an election with consequences of unprecedented gravity for our nation," he told the RTL radio broadcaster.

The team of Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne, who is also secretary general of Macron's Renaissance party, said he would be "fully engaged" in the battle for parliament seats as well as his job as minister.

On the left, Socialist party chief Olivier Faure called for the setting up of "a popular front against the far right".

"The far right is not just at the gates of power, but has a foot in the door," he told France Info radio, after the RN's score in the EU elections.

Analyst Mujtaba Rahman, managing director for Europe at Eurasia Group, said Macron had taken an "enormous gamble".

The most likely outcome, he said, was of "another hung parliament" that would lead Macron to "form a wider alliance with the center right or center left".

Related Stories

No stories found.

The New Indian Express