France’s snap election: Why did Macron call it and what happens next?

By The Independent (World News) | Created at 2024-06-10 14:15:23 | Updated at 2024-07-21 18:42:14 1 month ago
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French president Emmanuel Macron has called a snap election after his party suffered a crushing defeat in EU parliamentary elections.

Mr Macron dissolved the French parliament on Sunday and called for legislative elections to be held on 30 June and 7 July. Voters must be called to the polls in the 20 to 40 days following the assembly’s dissolution.

It came after Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally (RN) party were projected to win 31.5 per cent of the European Union parliamentary vote, compared with 14.5 per cent for Mr Macron’s centrist alliance.

“For me, who always considers that a united, strong, independent Europe is good for France, this is a situation which I cannot countenance,” Mr Macron said. “I have decided to give you back the choice of our parliamentary future with a vote.”

So why has the French president called an election, when will they be held and who are the parties involved? The Independent takes a look below.

Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National party won 31.5 per cent of the European Union parliamentary vote

Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National party won 31.5 per cent of the European Union parliamentary vote (AP)

Why has president Macron called an election?

Mr Macron called his decision “serious and heavy”.

He said he could not resign himself to the fact “far right parties are progressing everywhere on the continent” following France’s right-wing Rassemblement National’s success in the European vote.

Mr Macron’s centrist list, headed by MEP Valérie Hayer, was predicted to win 14.5 per cent in the European poll, compared with 31.5 per cent secured by Rassemblement National - which said it was “ready to take power” in France.

The French president described it as “an act of confidence”, saying he had faith in France’s voters and “in the capacity of the French people to make the best choice for themselves and for future generations”.

French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte Macron enter a voting booth during the European elections on Sunday

French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte Macron enter a voting booth during the European elections on Sunday (AP)

How and when will elections be held?

Article 12 of the French constitution allows presidents to dissolve the French parliament to resolve political crises, such as permanent and irreconcilable differences between parliament and the executive.

This has affected French politics since Mr Macron lost his majority in 2022, meaning he is increasingly reliant on pushing through legislation through executive orders without a vote, using a controversial constitutional tool known as 49/3.

Voters must be called to the polls in the 20 to 40 days following the paliament’s dissolution. The first round of these elections is scheduled for 30 June and the second on 7 July.

How does the vote work?

Candidates in the 577 seats of the National Assembly, the lower chamber of France’s parliament. A candidate can win in the first round if they receive at least 50 per cent of votes cast, as well as the votes of at least a quarter of registered voters in the constituency. If this does not happen, those with more than 12.5 per cent of the vote are eligible for the second round. in most cases the run-off will feature the top two vote-getters, on rare occasions it might feature three or even four candidates.

What about the result?

The result is hard to predict. It is likely to depend on how committed leftist and centre-right voters are to the idea of blocking the far-right from power. Voter turnout on Sunday during the EU parliamentary elections was about 52 per cent, France’s interior ministry said.

A widely leaked unofficial poll from the end of last year, the only recent one on snap elections, showed the RN on track to double or triple its score and possibly obtaining a majority, but it dates from December and more recent ones would be needed to have a clear picture.

Macron's Renaissance party currently has 169 lower house legislators out of a total of 577. The RN has 88. The centrist Ensemble coalition, which includes Mr Macron’s Renaissance party is short of an absolute majority, which is 289.

Eurasia Group said the RN was no shoo-in for a majority, predicting a hung parliament as the most likely scenario.

"Faced with another hung parliament, [Macron] will try to form a wider alliance with the centre-right or centre-left, possibly by appointing a prime minister from one of those camps," the think-tank said in a note.

"We foresee a losing struggle for serious domestic reform or strict deficit reduction in the remaining three years of Mr Macron's term," it said, adding: "Emmanuel Macron has taken an enormous gamble, with his own reputation and legacy and the future of France."

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