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France: Macron’s risky game: new elections to counter the shift to the right?

France: Macron’s risky game: new elections to counter the shift to the right?

After the defeat in the European elections, Macron is taking drastic measures. He wants to expand his majority and slow down the right-wing nationalists by holding new parliamentary elections. It is a risky gamble.

After the right-wing nationalists’ overwhelming victory in the European elections in France, President Emmanuel Macron wants to stop the advance of Marine Le Pen’s troops with a daring step. In just a few weeks, the French are to vote for a new National Assembly. Macron, whose position is not at stake in the vote, is hoping for a larger majority from his center camp for his remaining three years in office. “We are running to win,” said those close to Macron. But how?

Government has long been under pressure

While Macron likes to lead the way on the international stage, his camp has been struggling in the National Assembly for almost two years. It no longer had an absolute majority there and, given the prevailing culture of fighting and confrontation in the chamber, was only able to push through its plans with great difficulty and often with a heavy hand and by avoiding votes. A vote of no confidence in the government had been looming for some time. The crushing defeat in the European elections, in which Macron and his allies did not even win half of the votes won by the right-wing nationalist Rassemblement National (RN), put the president under further pressure. Now he is taking the plunge.

Macron wants to expand his majority, but with whom?

Macron is relying on clarity, meaning that he wants to expand his relative majority. But with whom? That is still completely unclear. The head of the presidential Renaissance party, Stéphane Séjourné, has already reached out: wherever there are currently Republican MPs in parliament who want to campaign for a clear project for France, they do not want to put up opposing candidates. According to reports, this should apply to MPs from all parties with the exception of RN and the left-wing party La France insoumise.

The Republicans, for whom political survival is at stake after years of decline, clearly rejected cooperation with Macron on Sunday evening. The Greens and Socialists sharply criticized the president’s decision to dissolve the parliamentary chamber. Macron may be able to benefit from the fact that the left-wing camp was surprised by his move and must first sort itself out internally.

If Macron was hoping to gain a head start with the right-wing nationalists through the element of surprise, he miscalculated. The party said that there were already plans for a dissolution of parliament and early elections, including a list of candidates. Le Pen appeared confident and ready to take power on Sunday evening.

Fear of implosion

There is great fear in parts of France that Macron’s move could backfire. RN, which Le Pen has made electable well into the middle class with her years of “de-demonization,” received the most votes in the European elections in more than 90 percent of French municipalities. If the right-wing nationalists receive an absolute majority in the National Assembly, Macron would effectively be forced to appoint one of them as head of government.

Whether such a scenario could occur is completely uncertain. In the 2022 parliamentary election, the Macron camp won 245 seats, RN only 89. If RN wins the majority, that would be considerable. However, a poll from December in the midst of the heated debate over the immigration law indicated a significant increase in votes for RN – possibly to the point of a majority. Even if it is unclear what will happen, history teaches that Macron’s game is risky. When the then conservative President Jacques Chirac dissolved the National Assembly in 1997, his camp lost its absolute majority in the new election and the Socialists gained the upper hand.

Macron’s entourage nevertheless dismissed the appointment of a prime minister from another camp. “The president does not follow this logic.” There is a majority for parties that do not share the values ​​of the far-right. It is clear that Macron wants to declare the parliamentary election a joint fight against the right.

Consequences for Germany and Europe

If Macron’s gamble doesn’t work out, it would be fatal for Germany and Europe. Macron would lose a lot of power and would no longer be able to implement his foreign policy course so easily. It is difficult to imagine a compromise between Macron, the pro-European, and the Eurosceptic and RN leader Jordan Bardella, who also wants to keep his distance from Germany. Domestically, France could also slide into a chaotic situation in which it can no longer be the reliable partner it is internationally.

If, however, Macron actually succeeds in creating a more stable majority, this could also benefit international partners, because the head of state will then not have to spend time and energy repeatedly putting out the smoldering domestic political fires. What is certain, however, is that Macron and Foreign Minister Séjourné, who is organizing the presidential party’s election campaign, will probably be taking a step back from their international activities in the next four weeks. The partners must expect Macron to be in election mode and focused on the domestic front at the G7 summit in Italy in a few days.

France looks ahead to 2027

Macron and his camp are constantly stressing around the parliamentary elections that the president is the only political leader who has no personal interest in the next presidential election in 2027. But it is not that simple. Macron will not be able to run again after two terms in office. But the liberal wants to avoid at all costs having paved the way for a right-wing nationalist president. If his legacy had been to help Le Pen succeed him, Macron’s course would have failed.

Results of the 2022 parliamentary elections Preliminary results of the European elections

Source: Stern

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