Far-right parties are surging in Europe. Here’s what it means for France’s snap election

Tyler Mitchell By Tyler Mitchell Jun17,2024
On Sunday evening, French President Emmanuel Macron announced a snap election, with voters to head to the polls in less than three weeks.
His announcement caught many off guard and came in the wake of his rival making major gains in .

Here’s what you need to know about the French election, why Macron has dissolved parliament, and the projected outcome.

When is the French election?

The first round of elections is scheduled for Sunday 30 June, less than three weeks away.

The second round on Sunday 7 July will be a contest between the two candidates with the most votes from the first round.

Who are Emmanuel Macron’s political rivals?

The main parties in the French political landscape are Macron’s centrist Renaissance party and the far-right National Rally (RN), led by Marine Le Pen.
RN is a nationalist and populist party, is anti-immigration, and supports reform of the European Union.

Its policies include higher public spending, despite already significant levels of French debt.

Marine Le Pen wearing a black blazer

Marine Le Pen’s National Rally party has enjoyed an increase in support as far-right parties gain popularity in Europe. Source: AAP / Julien De Rosa / AP

RN also wants to expel more migrants, stop family reunification, restrict childcare benefits to French citizens, give French nationals preference in access to social housing and jobs and withdraw residency for migrants who are out of work for more than a year.

The party was founded in 1972 and was known as the National Front until 2018, when it changed its name in a bid to improve its image. Its support has increased as right-wing politics rise in popularity in Europe.
In the European Union parliamentary elections RN received more than double the votes of the Renaissance party, taking more than 31 per cent compared with 14 per cent.

The Socialists and hard-left France Unbowed trailed behind with 13 and 9 per cent each.

Why did Emmanuel Macron call a snap election?

Macron called the election in the wake of the European Union elections, which shape the parliament that approves legislation across the 27-country bloc.
He said the EU result was grim for his government and one he could not ignore.
“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.”

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 per cent 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.

“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.

French President Macron speaking in a televised address

French President Emmanuel Macron announced the dissolution of the National Assembly, the French parliament’s lower house, and called a general election after his party was defeated in the European elections. Source: AAP / Andre Pain / EPA

Speaking to RTL radio, French finance minister Bruno Le Maire described the vote as the “most consequential” parliamentary election in modern French politics.

Emmanuel Pellerin, a politician from the Renaissance party told Reuters: “We’re still in shock.”

“Everything points to the RN winning a relative or absolute majority. But that forces the French to think about what is at stake.”

What happens if National Rally wins a majority?

Macron’s decision to dissolve the national parliament is a gamble, and could result in the president having to work in a coalition with a far-right prime minister.
RN co-leader Marine Le Pen said the party’s president and her protege, 28-year-old Jordan Bardella, would be its contender for prime minister.

The first opinion poll has forecast National Rally to win the election but fall short of an absolute majority.

According to the survey by Toluna Harris Interactive for Challenges, M6 and RTL, RN is likely to win 235 to 265 seats in the National Assembly, a huge jump from its current 88 but short of the 289 needed for an absolute majority.
Macron’s party is likely to see its number of seats possibly halve, from 250 to 125 to 155, the poll showed.
Left-wing parties could control 115 to 145 seats, though each party could run on its own.

There is no certainty RN would run the government, with or without an alliance with others.

Other scenarios include a wide-ranging coalition of mainstream parties, or a completely hung parliament.
Even if RN does score a majority in the French parliament, Macron would remain president for three more years and still be in charge of defence and foreign policy.
But he would lose control over the domestic agenda including economic policy, security, immigration and finances.
This would in turn impact other policies, such as aid to Ukraine, as he would need parliament’s backing to finance any support as part of France’s budget.

The early election will also come shortly before the start of the Paris Olympics, when all eyes will be on France.

Tyler Mitchell

By Tyler Mitchell

Tyler is a renowned journalist with years of experience covering a wide range of topics including politics, entertainment, and technology. His insightful analysis and compelling storytelling have made him a trusted source for breaking news and expert commentary.

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