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France: what comes after the far right's success?

France: what comes after the far right's success?
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(© picture alliance / ASSOCIATED PRESS/Julien de Rosa)

With just over 31 percent of the vote, Marine Le Pen’s right-wing nationalist Rassemblement National has scored a clear victory in the European elections. President Macron, whose centrist Renaissance party won only 15 percent, dissolved the National Assembly on Sunday evening and announced snap elections for 30 June and 7 July. Commentators take a look at what another victory for the RN would mean.

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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.”

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.”

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.”

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.”

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.”

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.”

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.”

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.”

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