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France is entering election mode after the far-right victory in the European Parliament vote

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PARIS (Reuters) – France began gearing up for elections on Monday after President Emmanuel Macron called a shock parliamentary election following an embarrassing loss in the European Parliament vote to far-right Marine Le Pen party.

Macron’s unexpected decision, which amounts to a gamble for his political future, could hand major political power to the far right after years on the sidelines, and neutralize his presidency three years before it expires.

The legislative vote will take place on June 30, less than a month before the start of the Paris Olympics, with a second round in July.

Analysts said Macron’s decision was aimed at making the most of his weak position, regaining the initiative and forcing Le Pen’s National Rally (RN) into election mode sooner than it would have liked.

“We didn’t think this would happen right after the European elections, even if we wanted it to,” RN vice-president Sebastien Chenu said on RTL Radio, adding: “Elections are rarely a gift and in this context, they are not.”

He called on right-wing lawmakers from outside the RN to strengthen their ranks in the fight to defeat Macron, saying the party’s telegenic president, the 28-year-old Jordan Bardellawould be his candidate for prime minister.

Under Bardella’s leadership, the RN won about 32% of the vote on Sunday, more than double the Macron ticket’s 15%, according to exit polls. The Socialists came within a radius of Macron with 14%.

Macron’s Renaissance Party currently has 169 MPs in the lower house, out of a total of 577. The RN has 88.

If the RN wins a majority, Macron would still direct defense and foreign policy, but would lose the power to set the domestic agenda, from economic policy to security.

Those powers would likely end up in Bardella’s hands if he were to become prime minister.

“I have confidence in the ability of the French people to make the fairest choice for themselves and for future generations,” Macron tweeted on Monday. “My only ambition is to be useful to our country that I love so much.”

(Reporting by Gabriel Stargardter, Tassilo Hummel, Blandine Henault and Benoit Van Overstraeten; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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