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Macron is betting on early elections after the European defeat

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President Emmanuel Macron has called snap parliamentary elections later this month in the wake of his rival Marine Le Pen’s big victory at the National Rally in the European Parliament vote.

The far-right party is on track to win 32% of the vote, exit polls say, more than twice as many as the president’s Renaissance Party.

Announcing the dissolution of parliament, he said the two rounds of voting would take place on June 30 and July 7, a few weeks before the Paris Olympics.

Macron made the dramatic and surprising decision in a televised address from the Élysée, an hour after voting closed and exit polls for France’s EU elections were called.

His decision came not long after National Rally’s 28-year-old leader, Jordan Bardellaopenly called on the president to call parliamentary elections.

“I have heard your message,” the president told French voters, “and I will not abandon it without a response.”

“France needs a clear majority in serenity and harmony,” he said, adding that he could not accept the progress of the far right “all over the continent”.

Now, just two years into his second term as president, Mr Macron already lacks a majority in the French parliament, and although in theory this European vote has no impact on national politics, he has clearly decided that continuing his mandate without a new referendum would put too much pressure on the system.

Ms Le Pen, who was twice defeated by Macron in presidential elections, responded immediately, saying her party was “ready to exercise power, ready to put an end to mass immigration”.

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Now, just two years into his second term as president, Mr Macron already lacks a majority in the French parliament, and although in theory this European vote has no impact on national politics, he has clearly decided that continuing his mandate without a new plebiscite would put too much pressure on the system.

Ms Le Pen, who was twice defeated by Macron in presidential elections, responded immediately, saying her party was “ready to exercise power, ready to put an end to mass immigration”.

Calling early elections is a big surprise for the country and a big risk for President Macron.

He could have reacted differently. He could have simply gone ahead and explained the enormous victory of the far right as a European aberration that would be corrected in more important elections.

He could have relied on the upcoming European Football Championship in Germany and especially the Olympic Games in Paris to keep people’s attention away from politics for a few months.

That was certainly the way the Parisian commentariat thought he would handle his party’s defeat.

But one can only assume the president saw this coming and planned his response in advance.

Marine Le Pen and Jordan Bardella already celebrated a big victory before Macron’s announcement (EPA)

The result was certainly a near-exact replica of the polls, so he would have had plenty of time to consider his options.

The fact is that he is stuck.

Without a majority, it is already quite a struggle to get a bill through the National Assembly. With most of the country so clearly against him, any new legislation – the upcoming budget, for example – could have proven explosive.

That is why he opts for ‘clarity’. If National Rally has the votes, he says, they should be given the chance to govern.

It is clear that the president hopes that his own Renaissance Party can fight back in the elections on June 30 and July 7. Or that other parties will also do better.

But he must realize that the odds are in favor of another victory for the National Rally. Perhaps not as drastic as Sunday’s result, but enough to become the largest party in parliament.

At that point we might have a Prime Minister Marine Le Pen, or even Jordan Bardella.

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