analysis

French President Emmanuel Macron plays Russian roulette with snap election

Latika Bourke
The Nightly
French President Emmanuel Macron has called a shock snap election.
French President Emmanuel Macron has called a shock snap election. Credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images

As far as political gambles go this is the equivalent of Russian roulette from Emmanuel Macron.

As the results of the European elections came in on Sunday night they confirmed the French President’s worst fears.

Early counts showed Marine Le Pen’s National Rally (RN) party emerging on top with 31.5 per cent – more than double the vote of Emanuel Macron’s Renew Party.

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Renew limped to 14.7 per cent of the vote barely beating the Socialist party’s 14 per cent.

The breakthrough for the far-right was unprecedented and Macron responded in kind.

In a short video released on social media, he told the French people he had decided to ‘give you back the choice of our parliamentary future by voting.’

This screen shot shows France's President Emmanuel Macron speaking during a televised address to the nation during which he announced he is dissolving the National Assembly, French Parliament lower house, and calls new general elections on June 30, in Paris on June 9, 2024. (Photo by Ludovic MARIN / AFP)
This screen shot shows France's President Emmanuel Macron speaking during a televised address to the nation during which he announced he is dissolving the National Assembly, French Parliament lower house, and calls new general elections on June 30, in Paris on June 9, 2024. (Photo by Ludovic MARIN / AFP) Credit: LUDOVIC MARIN/AFP

He dissolved the National Assembly and said polls would be held on June 30 with the second round on July 7, three days after the UK goes to its national election.

With just 21 days of campaigning, Macron has redefined the concept of a ‘snap election,’ hoping that the National Rally will be less organised around the country compared to his own preparations.

Notably, this is the same thinking that prompted Rishi Sunak to call the UK’s snap poll for July 4.

The Tory leader had hoped to stave off a challenge from Reform but this backfired when Eurosceptic and former UKIP leader Nigel Farage announced his late candidacy for Reform.

Now — in the reckoning after Sunak deserted part of D-Day ceremonies held in Normandy, France last week to return to campaigning — it is possible that Reform could outpoll the Conservatives.

Unlike Sunak’s early election call, Macron’s move had not been widely canvassed in the media.

But while the French leader’s gamble came as a huge shock his motive is clear.

He hopes to flush National Rally out and expose their lack of solutions before the country chooses its next president. He does not want his legacy to have ended in ushering the far-right into the Élysée.

‘At the end of this day, I was not able to pretend that nothing has happened,’ he said.

‘I am the only political leader to have no need to run for office in 2027.

‘My only ambition is to be useful to this country that we all love.

‘The rise of the nationalists and demagogues is a threat not only to our nation but also to our Europe and to France’s place in Europe and in the world.

‘The extreme right is both the impoverishment of the French people and the downfall of our country.’

Militants celebrate at the announcement of the vote results during an evening gathering of French far-right party Rassemblement National (RN) on the final day of the European Parliament election, at the Pavillon Chesnaie du Roy in Paris, on June 9, 2024. (Photo by JULIEN DE ROSA / AFP)
Militants celebrate at the announcement of the vote results during a gathering of French far-right party Rassemblement National (RN) on the final day of the European Parliament election. Credit: JULIEN DE ROSA/AFP

While there was speculation amongst some Europe-watchers that Macron might call a poll this year, none expected him to make the move before the Paris Olympics which begin at the end of July and the start of the Euros football tournament this week.

‘We will see on a national basis, that is more directly connected to the people if the vote will remain the same,’ a shocked Fabienne Keller, a European parliamentary candidate for Macron’s Renew party, told France 24 after watching Macron’s announcement.

For its part, the National Rally had called for the early poll just before Macron made his announcement.

Party president Jordan Bardella told his victory rally that Macron was a ‘weakened president’.

‘If he does not wish to continue down a cul-de-sac … we are asking him to take full measure of this political message,’ he said.

‘To respect the French people and organise legislative elections.’

Bardella said the French people had expressed their attachment to French identity, prosperity and security and had wanted to ‘take control of immigration policy.’

‘They want the French state to defend every square inch of France,’ he said.

‘Tonight there is hope in France and it is only just beginning.’

Should the French opt for National Front, they have two years before the Presidential election to demonstrate whether they can govern, or as Macron hopes, show they cannot and prevent a President Le Pen once more.

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