Macron sets early elections to combat far-right surge

French President Emmanuel Macron addresses a media conference at the conclusion of an EU Summit in Brussels, Friday, March 22, 2024. Photo: AP/Omar Havana

French President Emmanuel Macron has rolled the dice on his political future by announcing snap legislative elections aimed at curbing the rise of the far-right in France, a move crucial for defining his legacy.

The elections for a new National Assembly are scheduled for June 30, with a runoff on July 7, Macron revealed in a televised address to the nation.

This decision follows projections from the EU elections that showed a drastic lead for the far-right National Rally (RN) over Macron’s centrist coalition in France.

Described as an “extreme gamble” by the daily Liberation, France’s far-right parties collectively garnered close to 40 percent of the recent vote, prompting Macron to take drastic action.

“I cannot pretend that nothing has changed… I cannot accept this situation,” Macron emphasized during his speech.

With just three weeks before the elections, Macron’s camp is gearing up for an intense campaign to counter the RN, aiming to attract disengaged voters and thwart the far right’s momentum.

In the best-case scenario, Macron’s centrist alliance could reclaim the majority it lost in the 2022 elections, infusing fresh momentum into the last three years of his presidential term.

Conversely, a nightmare scenario would involve the RN seizing a majority, potentially resulting in its leader Jordan Badella taking the helm as prime minister in an uneasy cohabitation setup.

Analysts speculate that a middle ground might involve an anti-extremism coalition between Macron’s centrists and the mainstream right-wing Republicans or even the left-wing Socialists.

Celine Bracq from the Odoxa polling agency characterized Macron’s decision as a high-stakes political move at a time when many French citizens are eager to penalize the president for his perceived shortcomings.

“It’s an extremely risky move,” she told AFP. “Following the European elections, it’s not inconceivable that the National Rally could secure a majority in the National Assembly, and who knows, even an absolute majority.”