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Macron still can stabilize the situation, analysts say

Snap poll move seen as 'huge gamble' with public opinion shifting to the right

By CHEN YINGQUN | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2024-06-15 08:38
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With less than three weeks to go before the first round of elections of the National Assembly, the lower house of the French Parliament, President Emmanuel Macron's centrist Renaissance party and Marine Le Pen's far-right National Rally are both urgently rallying electoral allies.

Many anticipate that France's political chaos will intensify after legislative elections, but some say the president still has a chance to stabilize the situation.

On Wednesday, Macron urged rivals to join his alliance against Le Pen's party in legislative elections, which will take place in two rounds on June 30 and July 7. He called on "compatriots and political leaders who do not recognize themselves in the extremist fever" to build a coalition to govern.

Macron dissolved the National Assembly and announced the snap election, as his party was handed a humbling defeat by the National Rally in the European parliamentary elections on Sunday.

The National Rally secured 31.8 percent of the vote, more than double the share of Renaissance's 15.2 percent.

Many political analysts see Macron's snap election move as a "huge gamble".

He Yun, an associate professor at Hunan University's School of Public Administration, said Macron will focus on people's fear of a far-right "extremist" government to mobilize his party's campaign, but the extent of this strategy's success remains uncertain because public opinion is shifting to the right, as evidenced by the recent big gains made by the National Rally.

A Harris Interactive-Toluna poll released on Monday also indicates that only 19 percent of people would support Macron, compared with 34 percent support for Le Pen's party, in the forthcoming ballot.

He Yun noted a snap election usually creates a period of political uncertainty. If the National Rally succeeds, there will be a significant shift away from Macron's centrist policies, potentially leading to a more polarized and divided French Parliament.

"Given the fragmented nature of French politics, forming a stable coalition could be challenging and it may result in a weaker and less effective government, if no party secures an outright majority," she said.

Policy priorities

A new parliamentary configuration may lead to changes in policy priorities, with the potential of previously planned reforms being scaled back, altered or entirely abandoned. This is especially true for domestic issues, which fall under the purview of the prime minister, she said.

Overall, Macron's strategy to highlight the dangers of a far-right government may resonate with some voters, but the rising popularity of the National Rally and the public's rightward shift present significant challenges for his party.

"The election outcomes will be crucial in determining the future trajectory of French politics and governance," He said.

Zhao Yongsheng, director of the French Economic Studies Center at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing, said Macron is taking a proactive step that he believes will help his party to continue governing France for a long time.

"For a long time, European Parliament elections have been viewed by French voters as a protest vote against the sitting president, but that is different from choosing who will govern the country," he said.

While issues such as the Russia-Ukraine conflict, immigration policy and economic development are important to the European elections, voters would like to focus on different issues in domestic elections, Zhao said.

Moreover, the European parliamentary elections are held in a single round, while the French National Assembly elections have two rounds. In the European elections, voters' emotional outbursts end after one round. But in legislative elections, even if there is an emotional outburst after the first round, voters often return to rationality during the second round, he said.

Macron's government has implemented long-term policy planning during his term and has strived to make reforms in various sectors, but the downside is that the people cannot see immediate effects, Zhao said.

"There are more than two weeks before the first round of voting and over three weeks before the second. The French people want to see immediate results, and Macron needs to quickly deploy his policy tools," Zhao said.

However, if the National Rally wins the election, there is a possibility that Macron might have to "co-govern" with a far-right prime minister, which could be one of France's biggest political upheavals after World War II, and his policies would be more challenging to implement. Nonetheless, Zhao said he believes that the possibility of this happening is slim.

Agencies contributed to this story.

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