Far-right parties surge in European Parliament vote, prompting French snap election

Far right parties surge in European Parliament vote prompting French snap election
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President Emmanuel Macron dissolved the lower house of France’s parliament in a surprise announcement on Sunday after far-right parties in France and elsewhere dominated European Parliament elections.

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The move sends French voters back to the polls in the coming weeks. The legislative elections will take place in two rounds, on June 30 and July 7.

The announcement came after the first projected results from France put the far-right National Rally party well ahead in the European Union’s parliamentary elections, handing a chastening loss to Macron’s pro-European centrists, according to French opinion poll institutes.

Marine Le Pen’s anti-immigration, nationalist party was estimated to get about 31 to 32 per cent of the votes — a historic result more than double the share of Macron’s Renaissance party, which was projected to reach about 15 per cent.

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France is electing 81 members of the European Parliament, which has 720 seats in total.

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French President Emmanuel Macron waves from his car after voting in the European Union’s parliamentary elections, in Le Touquet-Paris-Plage, northern France, on Sunday. (Hannah McKay/The Associated Press)

Macron himself wasn’t a candidate in the EU elections, and his term as president still runs for three more years.

He said the decision was “serious” but showed his “confidence in our democracy, in letting the sovereign people have their say.”

“In the next few days, I’ll be saying what I think is the right direction for the nation. I’ve heard your message, your concerns, and I won’t leave them unanswered,” Macron said.

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With Sunday’s decision, he is taking a big risk with a move that could backfire and increase Le Pen’s chances of eventually taking power.

A person smiles while looking down as another person stands behind.
Marine Le Pen, left, leader of the National Rally party, is shown in Paris on Sunday. (Sarah Meyssonnier/Reuters)

A scenario in which an opposition party would eventually win a parliamentary majority could lead to a fraught power-sharing situation called “cohabitation,” with Macron to name a prime minister with different views.

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Le Pen, who heads the National Rally group at the National Assembly, “welcomed” Macron’s move.

‘We’re ready for it,” said Le Pen, who was the runner-up to Macron in the last two presidential elections. “We’re ready to exercise power if the French people place their trust in us in these future legislative elections. We’re ready to turn the country around, ready to defend the interests of the French, ready to put an end to mass immigration, ready to make the purchasing power of the French a priority.”

Surging far right

An initial projection provided by the European Union indicated far-right parties have made big gains at the European Parliament, but two mainstream and pro-European groups — the Christian Democrats and the Socialists — remained the dominant forces. The gains of the far right came at the expense of the Greens, who were expected to lose about 20 seats and fall back to sixth position in the legislature.

In Germany, the most populous nation in the 27-member bloc, projections indicated that the far-right AfD overcame a string of scandals involving its top candidate to rise to 16.5 per cent, up from 11 per cent in 2019. In comparison, the combined result for the three parties in the German governing coalition barely topped 30 per cent.

A voter wearing a pompon hat is obscured behind a privacy barrier as they cast a ballot.
A voter wearing a traditional Bollenhut pompon hat fills out a ballot for European Parliament elections in Gutach, southern Germany, on Sunday. (Thomas Kienzle/AFP/Getty Images)

Bucking the far-right trend was former EU leader and current Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, who overcame Law and Justice, the national conservative party that governed Poland from 2015 to 2023 and drove it ever further to the right. A poll showed Tusk’s party won with 38 per cent, compared with 34 per cent for his bitter nemesis.

For decades, the European Union, which has its roots in the defeat of Nazi Germany and fascist Italy, confined the hard right to the political fringes. With its strong showing in these elections, the far right could now become a major player in policies ranging from migration to security and climate.

EU lawmakers, who serve a five-year term in the European Parliament, have a say in issues from financial rules to climate and agriculture policy. They approve the EU budget, which bankrolls priorities including infrastructure projects, farm subsidies and aid delivered to Ukraine. They also hold a veto over appointments to the powerful European Commission.

These elections come at a testing time for voter confidence in a bloc of some 450 million people. Over the last five years, the EU has been shaken by the COVID-19 pandemic, an economic slump and an energy crisis fuelled by the biggest land conflict in Europe since the Second World War. But political campaigning often focuses on issues of concern in individual countries rather than on broader European interests.



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