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Why has French President Emmanuel Macron announced snap elections after EU Parliament poll defeat?

French President Emmanuel Macron votes during the European election, in Le Touquet-Paris-Plage, northern France, June 9, 2024.
French President Emmanuel Macron votes during the European election, in Le Touquet-Paris-Plage, northern France, June 9, 2024. Copyright Hannah McKay/Pool via AP
Copyright Hannah McKay/Pool via AP
By Alice Tidey
Published on Updated
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Macron's Renew party suffered a stinging defeat in the European elections, securing just 15.2% of the votes to the far-right National Rally's 31.5%, according to provisional results.

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French President Emmanuel Macron announced on Sunday evening that he would dissolve the national assembly after the far-right National Rally crushed his centrist Renew party in European elections.

In a five-minute video address released on social media shortly after 21:00 CET, Macron said that "after having carried out the consultations provided for in Article 12 of our Constitution, I have decided to give you back the choice of our parliamentary future by voting."

"I am therefore dissolving the National Assembly this evening," he added.

His address came just one hour after his centrist Renew party was handed a heavy blow by coming in a very distant second in the European elections to the RN, where both parties scored 15.2% and 31.5% respectively.

'Unprecedented defeat'

Jordan Bardella, the RN's lead candidate for these elections, had in his victory speech delivered shortly after the provisional results came out at 20:00 CET, called for such a move.

"The President of the Republic cannot remain deaf to the message sent this evening by the French people. First of all, he must abandon the agenda he was preparing to implement: de-indexation of retirement pensions, the new rise in energy prices from this summer," Bardella told supporters.

"We solemnly ask him to take note of this new political situation, come back to the French people and organise new legislative elections."

"This unprecedented defeat for the current government marks the end of a cycle and day one of the post-Macron era, which it is up to us to build," he added.

Extreme right is 'downfall of our country'

Macron retorted in his address that "the rise of the nationalists and demagogues is a threat not only to our nation but also to our Europe and to France's place in Europe and in the world".

"The extreme right is both the impoverishment of the French people and the downfall of our country. So at the end of this day, I can't pretend that nothing has happened," he added.

He said the national ballot, which is to be held on June 30 for the first round and on July 7 for the second, is a "serious and weighty decision" and an "act of trust".

"Confidence in you, my dear compatriots, in the ability of the French people to make the right choice for themselves and for future generations. Confidence in our democracy, in giving a voice to our sovereign people, nothing is more republican," he also said.

Legislative elections are usually held in France every five years, weeks after a new president has been elected. The next ones should therefore have been held in mid-2027.

The snap elections are a massive gamble for Macron, who lost his absolute majority in the national assembly after being re-elected in 2022.

His Renew party then secured just 169 seats in the 577 hemicyle, with allies from other centrist parties including MoDem and Horizons supplying another 81 seats.

The RN was the second largest formation with 88 seats, followed by the radical left-wing France Unbowed (LFI), and the right-wing Republicans (LR).

Macron's approval rating stood at a dismal 31% in May, according to pollster IFOP, despite a month-on-month increase of three points. His Prime Minister, Gabriel Attal, fared better with 45% of respondents declaring themselves "satisfied" with his work, up five points from the previous month.

The European Council of Foreign Relations (ECFR) thinktank described the electoral calculation by Macron in a statement as an "unexpected and risky move".

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"He seeks to get a second life, and avoid a lame duck status – but it could also lead to a Macron-Le Pen cohabitation," the statement read.

RN 'ready to exercise power'

Marine Le Pen, the president of the RN's group in the national assembly, told supporters she can "only welcome this decision" to call for snap elections, adding "we are ready for it."

"We are ready to exercise power if the people of France have confidence in us during these future legislative elections. We are ready to put the country back on its feet, ready to defend the interests of the French people, ready to put an end to mass immigration, ready to make the purchasing power of the French people a priority, ready to start reindustrialising the country, in short, we are ready to put the country back on its feet, ready to revive France," she told a jubilant crowd, with Jordan Bardella standing beside her.

Jean-Luc Melenchon, leader of France Unbowed, also welcomed Macron's announcement, writing on social media platform X that the French president "no longer has the legitimacy to pursue his policies of social abuse, climate inaction and warmongering".

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