France’s Macron calls for snap elections after far right surge in EU vote

Announcement comes after exit polls showed his alliance losing to far-right National Rally (RN) in EU parliament vote.

French President Emmanuel Macron has announced he will dissolve parliament and call new legislative elections after exit polls showed his alliance suffered a heavy defeat in European elections to Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally (RN) party.

Macron said the European Parliament results on Sunday were grim for his government, and ones he could not pretend to ignore. In an address to the nation, he said lower house elections would be called for June 30, with a second-round vote on July 7.

“This is an essential time for clarification,” Macron said. “I have heard your message, your concerns and I will not leave them unanswered … France needs a clear majority to act in serenity and harmony.”

Far-right parties… are progressing everywhere in the continent. It is a situation to which I cannot resign myself,” he said.

Le Pen’s National Rally, led by 28-year-old Jordan Bardella, won around 32 percent of the vote, more than double the Macron ticket’s 15 percent, according to the first exit polls. The Socialists came within a whisker of Macron, with 14 percent.

Le Pen’s strong showing, notching a 10-point increase on the last European Union election in 2019, will weaken Macron’s hold on power three years before the end of his final term. It could also prompt high-level defections from his centrist camp as the succession battle to replace him heats up.

“We are ready to take over power if the French give us their trust in the upcoming national elections,” Le Pen said at a rally shortly after Macron’s shock announcement.

Le Pen and Bardella sought to frame the EU election as a mid-term referendum on Macron’s mandate, tapping into discontent with immigration, crime and a two-year inflation crisis.

The European elections also mark a critical moment in France as Macron cannot stand again as president in 2027 and RN figurehead Le Pen fancies she has her best-ever chance of winning the Elysee Palace.

Jaques Reland, from the Global Policy Institute told Al Jazeera that the situation in France “is a rampant mess.”

“It’s a risky gamble”, he said, commenting on Macron’s decision.

“The European election was used a way for the French to vent…to say they are not satisfied on issues like immigration, cuts in unemployment benefits,” he said.

“But they recognise one thing about him [Macron] that on the international level, he puts across a good image of France and Europe.”

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies