France: Le Pen's party on the path to victory?

France is in turmoil following the dramatic victoryof the right-wing nationalist Rassemblement National (RN) in the European elections. President Emmanuel Macron dissolved the National Assembly on Sunday and announced a snap election for 30 June and 7 July. Then on Wednesday the conservative Les Républicains (LR) party announced the expulsion of their leader Eric Ciotti after he announced his intention to work with the RN.

Open/close all quotes
Echo24 (CZ) /

Snap election strategy is risky

Macron is hoping that the French electoral law will slow down the RN, Echo24 contends:

“While Strasbourg is elected by proportional representation and the French often use these elections to protest, the Assemblée Nationale is elected by a majority vote in two rounds. In the past, this has proved to be an insurmountable barrier for the Rassemblement National. In the second vote, the anti-Le Pen forces have always joined forces and voted in favour of anyone who was not running for the RN. Macron is clearly counting on this effect still working now. But it's still a big risk. Le Pen has been working diligently for several years to purge the party of its extreme elements. Most recently, for example, she arranged for the exclusion of the German AfD from the Identity and Democracy group in the European Parliament.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

Macron is asking the country the right question

In La Repubblica, philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy applauds the decision to call a snap election:

“Macron is right. ... Faced with this sweeping victory there were only two stances he could adopt: either an ostrich stance, or to confront the situation openly. ... The dissolution of parliament is therefore framed as a question to a doubting, disorientated France: do you really want what you want? Do you really want these incompetent, irresponsible useful idiots of Russia, these demagogues, these former militant fascists, these xenophobes, these heirs of a party that claims to have changed its stance on the existential question of antisemitism in the same way you might change your shoes? Did you really enter the voting booths of the Republic to say: I want to experience an illiberal, reactionary, racist period?” (ES) /

Justified anger at shortsighted elite

The RN's success is also down to its 28-year-old leader, explains

“Bardella has made his party the preferred party among the young. He inspires them at rallies, comes across as very relaxed on TikTok, and makes the case for a homogeneous France (far removed from the reality). ... The problems that these young people denounce have nothing to do with origins, but with social inequality. ... The (often justified) dissatisfaction with the Parisian elitism is a reaction to its short-sightedness when it comes to the economic problems of certain sections of the population. ... This is where the discourse of the far right thrives. And this is not just a French phenomenon, as the elections have shown.”

Libération (FR) /

Hoping for a shock effect

Libération is appalled by Ciotti's move, but also sees opportunities:

“His announcement will go down in history as a slap in the face to the past of this party, which has long been one of the most powerful in France. For although breaches had sometimes opened up, the leader of the conservatives has now clearly broken a dam. ... This decision, which appears to have been taken without consulting his own ranks, nevertheless inspires two hopes. The first is that the leading lights of LR will rise up to save what they can of the Republican Right. ... The other hope is that the prospect of an LR-RN alliance will have the effect of an electroshock on the leaders of the left and make them realise that if they don't join forces they will be swept away.”

La Stampa (IT) /

Gaullists in an existential crisis

This is an acide test for LR, writes La Stampa:

“It's unthinkable for the neo-Gaullists to side with a formation that was founded by people who are nostalgic about Marshal Pétain, a Nazi collaborator. Two senators, Sophie Primas and Jean-François Husson, resigned from the party in protest, from which we are now hearing unanimous calls for the resignation of Ciotti, who is being accused of 'treason', 'disloyalty' and 'opportunism'. The party leader, who has always represented the most extreme current of the French centre-right, has pledged to remain in office, while Marine Le Pen praised the 'courageous decision' of her potential ally.”

Causeur (FR) /

Cooperation no longer taboo

The forced collaboration with Macron's party in recent years has not done LR any good, right-wing conservative Causeur believes:

“It's hardly surprising that Eric Ciotti saw the dissolution of the National Assembly as an excellent opportunity to finally loosen the stranglehold that forces his party to be a twin of Renaissance. The person who for a long time made such a scenario impossible was Jean-Marie Le Pen, who bore the stigma of fascism. ... The rejection of any kind of alliance with him was legitimate and testified to a healthy vision of the Republican camp. But Jean-Marie Le Pen has been in retirement for years. ... It must be recognised that the Rassemblement National has changed considerably and that today it is more like a conservative party.”

Diena (LV) /

Gambling on winning a majority in parliament

Diena sees the possibility of Macron and his party getting their act together:

“This will be the sixth snap election in the history of the Fifth Republic. .. Each time the aim has been to halt trends that are unfavourable to presidents. ... Macron clearly has the same goal, and hopes to stem the rise in popularity of Marine Le Pen's RN and smaller conservative forces. A risky move, but not without chances of success. Macron has long since ceased to be France's most popular politician and his Renaissance Party has also ceased to be the country's most popular force. However, the fragmentation of the electorate combined with the electoral system has meant that Macron and Renaissance are the lesser of two evils for the majority of voters.” (UA) /

Va banque à la Macron doubts that Macron's gamble will pay off:

“Macron has deprived his opponents of three years that they could have used to prepare for the next elections. ... If Bardella is catapulted into the prime minister's chair in July, he may disappoint the French, who expect the Rassemblement National to perform a miracle and solve all their problems. This would weaken the far right's position and make Le Pen's victory [in the 2027 presidential elections] even more unlikely. But does Macron really want to defeat his opponents at the expense of French society, which has already suffered through years of unpopular reforms? And is he sure that Bardella will fail? What if the French like the new prime minister?”

Delfi (LV) /

Ability to govern not a foregone conclusion

Delfi comments:

“On the one hand, the announcement of a snap election is a political reality that was simply imposed upon Macron. ... On the other hand, if the result is favourable, the far right will have to prove its ability to govern the country effectively. ... And this could be a lifeline for the French President. Firstly, yesterday's speakers may now have to become doers. Secondly, a crushing defeat in the European Parliament elections does not automatically translate into an equally crushing defeat in the domestic parliamentary elections.”

Deutschlandfunk (DE) /

A risky experiment

Deutschlandradio's France correspondent Christiane Kaess is concerned that the RN could win a sweeping victory in the parliamentary elections :

“It's not out of the question that the Rassemblement National would be unmasked in government. ... And if they - like the Macronists now - had to govern with a relative rather than an absolute majority in the National Assembly, they would have to seek majorities for their policies. It's impossible to predict whether the party would be worn down or gain further support in such a situation. What is clear, however, is that the effects of a far-right government in France would extend well beyond its borders: Franco-German relations, which are already difficult enough, would reach an all-time low. And that would put a strain on the entire EU.”

Le Monde (FR) /

Election outcome not yet certain

Writing in Le Monde, political scientist Nonna Mayer turns an eye to voter turnout:

“In France, as in all old democracies, voter turnout is on the decline and socially influenced. Traditional abstention, which is more common in socially and culturally disadvantaged milieus, is being compounded by a generational phenomenon. ... In 2022, 17 percent of those under the age of 30 took part in all four rounds of the 2022 presidential and parliamentary elections. Among citizens aged 65 and over, that figure was 48 percent. What this means is that the votes cast are coming from a smaller, older, wealthier, less diverse and more right-wing group than the electorate as a whole. So there is a huge potential electorate that could change the balance of power if it were remobilised.”

Echo (RU) /

This could tame the RN

In a Telegram post picked up by Echo, political scientist Alexander Kynev outlines a scenario in which the expected election success will restrain rather than strengthen the right:

Le Pen's party will nominally win the parliamentary elections. But even then the majority will only be relative; it has no chance of winning more than half of the seats. So in all likelihood there would be a coalition. As the majority party, the RN will be accountable for all the decisions made, it will get bogged down in legislative routine and will find it more difficult to launch into a wild populist campaign come the presidential elections. If during this time the party is forced to shift towards the centre, that would only be good for the political system.”

L'Opinion (FR) /

Playing with fire

L'Opinion complains:

“Macron had several options. He could have put an end to his disregard for the parliamentary minority and proposed a genuine, far-reaching reform programme, a government contract, to those on the fringes of Macronie. ... That would certainly have been the most sensible way forward. ... Instead, he's upending the game table and hoping that this will put new trump cards in his hand. ... Instead, he's re-enacting his exclusive duel with the Rassemblement National, which will do nothing but strengthen Marine Le Pen's party. ... Instead, he's dissolving the National Assembly at the risk of bringing the far right to power in the country.”

Olessya Yakhno (UA) /

Questionable and rash

Macron should have waited, political scientist Olesya Yakhno comments on Facebook:

“In reality, this result was predictable. Just like the trend of growing far-right sentiment across Europe. The question is whether that warrants calling snap elections. After all, unity among the far-right parties themselves is by no means a given, and they are unlikely to be able to achieve a majority. Macron could have simply waited until the right's upward trend subsides, instead of calling early elections at the height of their success.”

La Croix (FR) /

Responsibility now rests with each individual

France is at a historic juncture, La Croix explains:

“The president's decision also puts the RN's back to the wall. Until now the party has always played the role of a protest movement. Has it completed its transformation into a governing party? Above all, the president is calling the voters to account. With this decision, he is calling on each and every one of them to wake up from their torpor in the face of the nationalist threat looming over the country - starting with that half of them who didn't go to the polls on Sunday. Macron's decision is a weighty one. It ushers in a phase of essential clarification. Now it's up to each and every French citizen to make the right choice.”

Die Welt (DE) /

Scholz should also grab the bull by the horns

Macron is displaying the greatness that the German chancellor lacks, Die Welt notes:

“Macron is facing up to the political reality and the will of voters. ... His decision deserves respect. ... For Olaf Scholz in his role as chancellor, however, consistency and stature have become foreign concepts. ... The economy is groaning as it has never done before under the burden of the government's economic policy, the shilly-shallying over arms deliveries and releases have caused annonyance, and when it comes to domestic policy issues such as security and migration Scholz only wakes up when it's already too late. In fact he doesn't seem to care. The strength of the AfD is above all due to the weakness of the traffic light coalition. Olaf Scholz can no longer stand by impassively - he must assume political responsibility. ... A 14-percent party can't be the one that chooses who is chancellor.”