France: Will the elections bring clarity?

The first round of the French parliamentary elections will be held on Sunday. President Emmanuel Macron dissolved the National Assembly after his party suffered heavy losses and the right-wing nationalist Rassemblement National (RN) made strong gains in the European elections. The electoral alliance New Popular Front (NFP) is running with a centre-left agenda. Europe's press is keeping a close eye on the developments in France.

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Corriere della Sera (IT) /

Dangerous polarisation

This election pits two populist blocs against each other, says Corriere della Sera:

“The left-wing NFP is a rather heterogeneous bloc (which includes both pro-Russian and pro-Ukrainian forces), whereas the Rassemblement National is united by sovereigntist and xenophobic ideology. Both are gaining support at the expense of the centre without regaining the sense of a democratic alternation between right and left. On the contrary, there is a danger of violent clashes on the streets. Both are determined to seduce the population with interchangeable social and fiscal promises, such as the abolition of Macron's pension reform and increases in social security. These are all pipe dreams or programmes that amount to an increase in the already enormous budget deficit.”

Le Monde (FR) /

Macron hindered by narcissism

Emmanuel Macron has warned that civil war could break out if either the RN or NFP wins. This is not the first time the president has adopted a counterproductive stance, says Le Monde director Jérôme Fenoglio:

“Astonishing remarks coming from a head of state, which only continue his approach of constantly creating tensions. Rebuilding France's shattered political space from the centre would have required humility and attention to others at all times. ... But Emmanuel Macron clearly has none of these virtues, and his entourage has never been taught to compensate for his shortcomings. In the end, his narcissism has exposed him to a rejection even greater than that which brought him to power and it threatens to bring down the entire centre bloc.”

Financial Times (GB) /

Thirst for change could paralyse the country

The Financial Times takes stock:

“The two most likely outcomes of the forthcoming elections are an absolute majority for the far right, forcing Macron to name a prime minister from the RN (which, he hopes, would in turn lay bare the party's incompetence, and change the outlook for the presidential election in 2027), or, more probable, a situation in which neither the extremes nor the centre commands a majority in the national assembly. In the second scenario, it would be hard to see how a majority administration could be assembled. A new government formed in these circumstances would be unable to do much. ... Ironically, the outcome of voters' thirst for change could be paralysis.”

Le Figaro (FR) /

Referendums as a method of governance

Holding referendums on important political issues could avoid ungovernability, suggests historian Raphaël Doan in Le Figaro:

“An ungovernable National Assembly along with a technocratic government and a president close to the end of his mandate could provide a good opportunity to once again use referendums to truly establish the majority will of the French people on a number of challenging issues. ... Of course, it's possible that the forthcoming parliamentary elections will produce an absolute majority. But if this is not the case, the president and the new deputies would do well to openly embrace referendums, not just as yet another way to test the legitimacy of the head of state, but as a method of governance.”

Ukrajinska Prawda (UA) /

A wake-up call for voters

Ukrainska Pravda notes strong interest in the elections:

“It seems voters have not been distracted by the summer heat, the football or the forthcoming Olympic Games in Paris. This election has already set a record: 2.1 million authorisations for proxy votes have been issued in the past few days. This is more than five times as many as in previous elections. So President Emmanuel Macron has achieved part of his plan - he has 'woken up' voters. But will this be enough to achieve the main goal of preventing the far-right Rassemblement National from coming to power?”

Göteborgs-Posten (SE) /

Real focus is the elections three years from now

The decisive year for the RN is more likely to be 2027, Göteborgs-Posten suspects:

“The parliamentary elections will probably result in some sort form of left or centre-left government, even if the RN delivers its best election performance yet. ... The RN would then have a strong oppositional role in parliament while Macron would be weakened and a potential left-wing government would likely find it difficult to lead the country together with the president. This may be exactly what the 28-year-old Jordan Bardella and his mentor Marine Le Pen are hoping for. They have been focusing on the 2027 presidential election the whole time. A new president could then dissolve parliament and call new elections, just as Macron did.”

Interia (PL) /

Macron has opened the gates for the right

Interia doubts that Macron's strategy will work:

“So the president thinks he will expose the misery that far-right governments bring if that's what the country ends up with. And then, thanks to him, his fellow citizens won't elect Le Pen as president in 2027. But the problem is that it is he who is now responsible if they do come to power. How can you open wide the gates of the fortress and at the same time warn against the approaching enemies and keep a serious face? It all sounds like a complete disconnect from reality.”

Le Soir (BE) /

There is no Europe à la carte

The RN's anti-EU promises are baseless, Le Soir stresses:

“Controlling migration, lowering VAT on energy, reducing the French contribution to the EU budget, giving the constitution precedence over European norms, etc. ... There is still a week left to dismantle this election rhetoric, which is as misleading as it is damaging. There can be no such thing as a Europe 'à la carte'. Solidarity between states is not optional, the defence of fundamental values is not up for negotiation. ... And so no, Jordan Bardella, if he enters Hôtel Matignon as prime minister, will not be able to unilaterally reduce France's contribution to European finances, any more than he will be able to exempt himself from his obligations on taxes, migration policy or budget management.”

Les Echos (FR) /

An unrealistic programme

Les Echos is also critical of Bardella's campaign promises:

“Never before has a political party claimed the post of prime minister with such an imprecise programme. The only really precise element is the cost of reducing VAT on energy prices, which would be financed among other things by reducing the contribution to the EU budget and taxing maritime transport. ... And the rest? 'By the autumn', the government promises to waive the increase in social security contributions, continue the abolishment of production taxes, repeal the pension reform, reduce inheritance tax and so on. ... Jordan Bardella is tough when it comes to the escalating debt, but how would he finance his measures?”

Eco - Economia Online (PT) /

Macron's Cameron moment

Eco writes:

“There are those who talk of this being a David Cameron moment for Emmanuel Macron, comparing the impact of the Brexit referendum in the UK with the consequences that the snap election in France could have for the country and the European Union. After 7 July, when the second round of parliamentary elections takes place, a country that is fundamental to the European project, that is one of the cornerstones of Nato and has a seat on the UN Security Council may have a government led by a far-right, Eurosceptic party that sympathises with Vladimir Putin.”

Corriere del Ticino (CH) /

Hard times for the EU

Corriere del Ticino reflects on the implications of a Rassemblement National government in France for the rest of Europe:

“First and foremost, it would mean the end of the Franco-German tandem's ability to steer European politics. ... Secondly, France will put pressure on Brussels to relax the rules on state deficits, which also affect other countries, and to reclaim French sovereignty over various areas which had been transferred to the EU's competence. There will also be a big push for a protectionist trade policy. ... In short, a Jordan Bardella government would try to impose an economic policy that is the exact opposite of what Brussels has pursued so far.”