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Surprising new elections: Macron's risky game with Bardella

Surprising new elections: Macron's risky game with Bardella

“Le Shock” was the headline in French newspaper Le Figaro on Monday after the European elections. Adorning the front page of the newspaper on one side is President Macron and on the other 28-year-old Bardella, leader of the National Front party, front-runner for the European Union and political son of Marine Le Pen. Nationalists with wings have long appeared in the polls.

But Macron's decision to call new elections on Sunday evening, shortly before the start of the Olympic Games in France, came unexpectedly. Specifically, elections are scheduled for June 30 and July 7 – Macron is not running for election himself, but rather wants to secure a larger majority from his centrist camp during his remaining three years in office. The New York Times said: “The danger is that in about a month, Macron will have to govern with the 28-year-old Bardella as prime minister, who represents everything he hates (Macron, ed.).”

Reuters/Hannah McKay

Macron's government has been under pressure for a long time

Report: New elections have been an option for months

However, Macron's decision does not appear to have been made in haste. The French newspaper Le Monde reported on Monday that a small group in the Elysee Palace has been discussing the option of dissolving the National Assembly for months.

Macron's camp has been fighting in the National Assembly for nearly two years. Because he no longer had an absolute majority there and was able to advance his plans only with great difficulty and often with great force and over-votes. The impending vote of no confidence in the government in the fall has been simmering for the government for a long time.

The bitter defeat in the European elections, in which Macron and his allies did not receive even half the votes that the National Front did, increased pressure on the president – and ultimately led to the decision to hold new elections.

Majority vote is an obstacle to RN?

Now there is a heated international debate about the consequences that Macron's camp might bear, on the one hand, and the forces surrounding Marine Le Pen and Bardella, on the other. “While the European elections gave the National Rally a clear victory, the parliamentary elections are unlikely to deliver such a clear victory,” a Politico analysis said on Monday.

“Le Pen will do well in the general election,” Mujtaba Rahman, European head of risk consultancy Eurasia Group, told Politico. “There are two rounds of elections, and a different group of voters is mobilized.”

Heitz (ORF) on Macron's delicate maneuver

After the huge victory achieved by right-wing nationalists in the European elections in France, President Emmanuel Macron wants to stop the advance of Marine Le Pen's forces with a bold step. Leonie Heitz (ORF) was analyzed.

In French National Assembly elections – unlike European elections – majority voting is applied. To be elected in the first round, a candidate must receive an absolute majority of the votes cast – otherwise there will be a runoff. “It is very difficult for a right-wing candidate to win a seat in the national parliament,” Politico says.

In the 2022 parliamentary elections, Macron's camp won 245 seats, while the National Front won only 89 seats. A poll by Toluna Harris Interactive, published on Monday, showed that the National Front could win between 235 and 265 seats in the National Assembly in the next elections. There are 577 seats in total.

“Sociability” is in the room

“The chances that Macron will be in a better position after the early elections compared to before are very slim,” political expert Jan Wernert of the Jacques Delors Center in Berlin told AFP. It is possible that the National Assembly will be divided into three blocs: the presidential camp, the green left camp, and the right-wing populists. “Or an absolute majority for the National Front, which would have far-reaching consequences and would largely deprive Macron of his ability to act,” Wernert said.

If the National Front succeeds in securing a government majority, there will be “coexistence” in France for the first time in 22 years. It has happened three times now that the president and the most powerful political group in parliament belong to different political camps, most recently in the period from 1997 to 2002 with conservative President Jacques Chirac and Socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin.

RN trusts Bardella

If the National Front wins, Bardella will become prime minister, his mentor Le Pen, who wants to run again for a seat in the National Assembly, told TF1 on Monday.

Bardella has had a meteoric career: he grew up in humble circumstances in a Parisian suburb, and joined Le Pen's party at the age of 17. He quickly worked his way to the top of the RN. At the age of 23, Bardella ran for the first time as a major candidate in the European elections. On the TikTok application, he inspires an audience of millions with slogans against the “flood of immigrants.”

The leader of the National Front parliamentary bloc, Le Pen, who wants to run for president in 2027, said on election evening that her party was ready to “seize power.” Bardella said that discussions are underway to form a right-wing party alliance for the elections. Le Pen's niece, Marion Marechal, the main EU candidate from the far-right Reconnect party, appeared open to cooperation on Monday after a meeting with Bardella and Le Pen, much to the dismay of party leader Eric Zemmour, according to media.

The government camp, which lost its absolute majority in the 2022 parliamentary elections, also switched to campaign mode on Monday. Foreign Minister Stefan Seghorn, who is also head of Macron's Ennahda party, called for “the mobilization of all republican forces.”

The crumbling front against the right

“A lot will depend on whether the left pulls itself together and is able to motivate its voters,” said Bryce Tintorer of the Ipsos polling institute, in light of the upcoming elections. In the past, the right and left often formed a “republican front” in the second round of parliamentary elections to prevent the National Front candidate from winning. However, this “front” collapsed with the increasing success of the National Front.

Thierry Chopin of the Jacques Delors Institute said that the result of the new elections could also have a significant impact on Europe. “If the National Rally Party appoints the prime minister, this will complicate negotiations at the European Union level,” he said.

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