Macron risks early elections to combat the rise of the far right.
“We are ready to exercise power”, declares Marine Le Pen, a veteran far-right radical.

PARIS — European elections are generally worthy but boring exercises in centrist coalition-building. Not this time.

A wave of far-right populism in France has led President Emmanuel Macron to call a high-stakes national election that could determine the future not only of his country, but of the European Union itself.

Across Europe, it was a good, if unspectacular, night for center-right and far-right parties, and a terrible one for liberals and especially the Greens.

But in France, the far-right Rassemblement National party, led by eurosceptics and NATO skeptics, completely crushed Macron’s liberal Renaissance party and all other competitors.

Rassemblement National is on track to win 31.5% of the vote — more than double the 14.7% projected for Macron’s liberal Renaissance party.

In a high-stakes bet to regain the political initiative, Macron has bet that voters will reverse the far-right tide and show that Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National cannot win at the national level.

“France needs a clear majority in serenity and harmony. Being French, at heart, is choosing to write history, not be led by it,” said Macron.

Mujtaba Rahman, head of Europe at Eurasia Group, a risk consultancy, believed the gamble would pay off. “This will almost certainly put the brakes on Le Pen,” he said.

Le Pen declared that her party is “ready to exercise power” and told her jubilant followers: “I can only welcome this decision.”

The rise of the far right in France was replicated elsewhere in Europe in a dramatic night of upheaval in EU politics. In Berlin, Olaf Scholz’s ruling coalition parties were defeated by the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), which came second behind the conservatives. Far-right parties were also on track to make gains in Austria, the Netherlands, Spain and Italy, according to initial estimates.

In France, the Rassemblement National’s performance in the upcoming snap elections on June 30 and July 7 will be closely watched as an omen of whether Le Pen — long the loser of French politics — can carry her party’s momentum to the presidency. in 2027.

As president of the world’s seventh-largest economy, Le Pen would almost certainly shake the EU to its foundations, prioritizing patriotic interests over international collaboration. Celebrating her party’s victory in Sunday’s EU vote, she said the result should send a message to Brussels and “put an end to this painful time of globalism”.

Accused of flirting with the Kremlin, she promised to strip Paris of NATO’s integrated military command and challenge the authority of the EU executive, which she has already called for to be abolished.

Like Macron, Le Pen suggested that France has reached a historic turning point.

“Tonight’s message, including that of dissolution, is also addressed to leaders in Brussels,” she said. “This great victory of patriotic movements is in line with the direction of history, which is seeing the return of nations across the world.”

Macron’s sudden decision to dissolve the National Assembly was met with incredulity by his supporters, with several people shouting “Oh no” as he spoke to a crowd in a televised speech from his party headquarters in Paris.

In contrast, jubilant supporters of the Rassemblement National party celebrated when Macron announced the dissolution of parliament, something the party had called for as the scale of his victory became apparent.

They sang “Dissolution, dissolution!” while watching Macron at an election event where Le Pen took the stage.

Le Pen spoke on stage alongside Rassemblement National’s leading candidate for the EU elections, Jordan Bardella. As he finished speaking, the audience of several hundred sang the French national anthem, the Marseillaise, waved French tricolor flags and visited the buffet to get more drinks.

Leading Socialist candidate Raphaël Glucksmann responded to the far-right triumph by saying: “Across Europe, we are witnessing a wave that is shaking our democracy.”

Article originally published in Politico. I


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