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France’s dissolution of parliament represents ‘return to normal,’ expert says

FILE - French President Emmanuel Macron leaves the voting booth before voting in the early French parliamentary election.
FILE - French President Emmanuel Macron leaves the voting booth before voting in the early French parliamentary election. Copyright Yara Nardi, Pool via AP, File
Copyright Yara Nardi, Pool via AP, File
By Lauren Chadwick
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Analysts have been trying to speculate as to why President Emmanuel Macron called a snap election.

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The French president’s call for a snap election has led many to question what he was hoping to gain from the poll, with Emmanuel Macron’s coalition expected to lose seats in parliament by the end of Sunday’s runoff.

In a surprise to many voters, Macron announced the dissolution of parliament following a defeat in the European elections, which saw the far-right top the poll.

“This decision is serious and heavy but it is above all, an act of confidence…in the capacity of the French people to make the right choice for themselves and future generations,” Macron said.

Changing France's election calendar with a snap poll represents a return to a “normal parliamentary regime where the legislative elections are not at all linked to the presidential election,” Delphine Dulong, a professor of political science at the University of Paris I, Panthéon-Sorbonne, told Euronews.

France’s legislative elections typically directly follow the presidential elections and often result in a majority for the president.

The alignment of the election calendar came following a 2000 referendum called by President Jacques Chirac that limited a presidential term to five years.

The changes helped to prevent "cohabitation," when the president must appoint a prime minister from an opposing camp but also mean that typically the legislative elections are defined by candidates being in the president’s party or opposed to it.

But Dulong said that this snap election “will not clarify much,” politically for the president, with the analyst saying the election in her view “did not at all give the results he was expecting”.

‘Not very responsible’

While the far-right RN had welcomed Macron’s decision to call for an election, others have questioned it, calling the dissolution a risky gamble.

“I’m not in the president's head, if I were in the head of the president, maybe I would be able to understand why he has put us so much in danger. Because he has put us in danger with his dissolution [of parliament],” Grégory Doucet, Lyon’s mayor from the Greens party, told Euronews ahead of the elections.

In the first round of the poll, Macron’s party again saw a decrease in support, with the president’s coalition now expected to lose seats in the National Assembly, with three years left in Macron’s term as president.

“Nothing was forcing the president to call for a snap election,” said Dulong, adding that the European elections were instead a “pretext” for something he was likely considering for a while.

Dulong points out that Macron knew he was doing it in a “risky context,” with a “polarisation towards extremes” among the electorate.

That the snap poll is being held right before the Olympic Games in Paris and could incite social movements in France was “not very responsible of the president of the Republic,” she added.

She gave two other possible reasons why the president dissolved parliament: that he “believed in his lucky star,” after rising out of nowhere in the 2017 election or that he thought if he lost the election, having a prime minister from an opposition party would help the president “remake his image”.

Following the second round, it will be a question of whether he can create a coalition pulling from some of the right and left or if he will be forced into a cohabitation with an opposition prime minister, such as one from the far right.

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