Macron urges French to make 'right choice' in election gamble

General |Author: AFP | June 11, 2024, Tuesday @ 07:04| 1372 views

Protestors hold placards and chant as they demonstrate against the French far-right political party Rassemblement National (RN) after their success in the European elections, at Place de la Victoire in Bordeaux, south-western France, on June 10, 2024. Analysts say the French President has taken the extremely risky gamble of dissolving the national parliament in a bid to keep the far-right Rassemblement National (RN) party out of power when his second term ends in 2027, after the far right crushed his centrist alliance in the June 9, 2024 European elections. The announcement sparked widespread alarm across France, even from within the ranks of his own party. (Photo by Christophe ARCHAMBAULT / AFP)

President Emmanuel Macron said Monday that he was confident French voters would make the "right choice" in snap elections he called after the far right crushed his centrist alliance in Sunday's EU ballot.

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

Analysts say Macron has taken the risky gamble of dissolving the national parliament 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.

His announcement of elections for a new National Assembly on June 30, with a second round on July 7, has sparked widespread alarm, even from within the ranks of his 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.

Despite the storm of criticism, Macron appeared unfazed on Monday as he visited the southwestern French village of Oradour-sur-Glane, site of a massacre by Nazi soldiers during World War II, together with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

Steinmeier said: "Let us never forget the damage done in Europe by nationalism and hate."

- A far-right premier? -

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

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

Uncertainty around the election also sapped market confidence, with Paris's CAC 40 index closing 1.35 percent lower and the interest rate on French government debt gaining 10 basis points, to 3.22 percent.

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.

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

Macron is hoping to win back the majority he lost in France's lower house in 2022 legislative elections after winning a second term.

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 co-leader Marine Le Pen said the party's fellow leader and her protege, 28-year-old Jordan Bardella, would be its contender for prime minister.

Le Pen, who was runner-up in the last two presidential elections, is largely expected to tilt for the top job again in 2027.

However, it will not be plain sailing for the RN as the party still provokes widespread hostility.

Demonstrators took to the streets of Paris, Marseille, Rennes, Lyon and several other large cities on Monday evening to show their opposition to the far right.

Five labour unions also called for mass protests this weekend, warning that "our republic and our democracy are in danger" if the far right wins again at the end of the month.

- 'Admiration for Putin' -

The RN came in first in the French EU parliament voting with more than 31 percent, a score more than double that of Macron's list with 14 percent.

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

The Socialists and three other left-wing parties -- France Unbowed, the Communists and the Ecologists -- announced late Monday that they would unite for the legislative elections as part of a "popular front... to fight the far-right's racist project".

On the far right, Marion Marechal, deputy head of the Reconquest party founded by pundit Eric Zemmour and seen as even further to the right of the RN, was meeting Marine Le Pen -- who is her aunt -- and Bardella at the RN headquarters.

Bardella said he had also "stretched out his hand" to the mainstream conservative Republicans party and had spoken with senior members.

Mujtaba Rahman, managing director for Europe at Eurasia Group, said Macron appeared to believe he could defy the polls by confronting France with a choice between the pro-European status quo and a far right that has "a history of admiration for -- and funding by -- Vladimir Putin".

The RN appears to be going into the snap parliament voting from a position of force, garnering 33-34 percent of voter intentions according to separate polls by Harris Interactive-Toluna and Opinionway published Monday -- more than 15 points above its score in the 2022 legislative election.

That would place them well ahead of any united left-wing grouping (22 percent) and Macron's centrist camp (19 percent), according to the Harris Interactive-Toluna poll.

© Agence France-Presse


Back  

Search

Search