'Huge political gamble': France's Macron calls for snap election his rival Le Pen could easily win


French President Emmanuel Macron.

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French President Emmanuel Macron’s decision to call a snap national election after a surge for his far-right rivals is a high-stakes move and a huge political gamble, analysts say.

Macron’s decision to call a snap parliamentary vote comes after the right-wing National Rally (RN) party, with Marine Le Pen as the figurehead, won around 31% of the vote in Sunday’s European Parliament election. That was more than double the 14.6% seen for Macron’s pro-European and centrist Renaissance Party and its allies.

France’s CAC 40 slumped 1.8% in the early hours of trading Monday morning with French banks trading sharply lower. BNP Paribas and Societe Generale led the Stoxx 600‘s losses, both down by around 6%. The euro was also down some 0.4% against the dollar amid the uncertainty.

“This is an essential time for clarification,” Macron said in a national address Sunday evening as he announced his decision to dissolve parliament.

“I have heard your message, your concerns and I will not leave them unanswered … France needs a clear majority to act in serenity and harmony,” he added. The first round of voting will take place on June 30, with a second to be held on July 7.

His party might lose

As it stands, Macron’s Renaissance Party has 169 seats in France’s lower house of parliament, out of a total of 577 seats, and the RN has 88 seats.

An Ipsos poll of 4,000 people who were asked about their voting intentions last December suggested the RN could win 243–305 seats, giving it a majority in Parliament.

If we did see such a result in the forthcoming election, Le Pen would likely become prime minister and have a significant say over France’s domestic and economic policy, although Macron — as president — will remain in charge of foreign policy, justice and defense. RN is technically fronted in Europe by Jordan Bardella, 28, who is seen as Le Pen’s protégé. But Le Pen is still very much seen as the party’s main figurehead.

Daniel Hamilton, senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Institute of Johns Hopkins University SAIS, described Macron’s decision as the “big story” of the wider European Parliament vote over the last few days, and one which could easily lead to a seismic shift in France’s government in which Macron “would have to govern with his nemesis, basically.”

“His gamble is to use the three years before the next presidential elections to show they did a really bad job and that somehow the voters will reward him, so it’s a huge political gamble and it’s going to create a lot of uncertainty in France,” he told CNBC Monday.

Macron will be making a 'huge political gamble' with French snap elections: Analyst

“While a lot can happen in the coming weeks, the available information suggests Macron has called an election he might lose,” Antonio Barroso, deputy director of Research at consultancy Teneo said in a note late Sunday, saying Macron was “likely trying to make the best of a bad political situation.”

Barroso believed Macron would likely “try to use the shock of the RN’s large victory in the EP election to mobilize the centrist electorate and limit the likelihood of Le Pen obtaining an absolute majority in the AN [the National Assembly, the lower house of parliament]. The RN might still be able to head a minority government, but a fragmented parliament would make it difficult for an RN-led government to get legislation passed,” he said.

Far right makes strong gains in EU elections as center holds majority

Barroso believed Macron’s rationale for calling the snap poll was to perhaps bring a National Rally victory “forward in time to expose the party’s lack of experience in government and make them confront politically painful decisions ahead of the 2027 presidential election.”

He noted, for instance, that if Le Pen’s party were to head the next government, it would have to approve either spending cuts or tax rises (or both) as part of the 2025 budget in the fall to reduce France’s large budget deficit (of 5.5% of GDP in 2023).

“This would be an important test for Le Pen, as she has increasingly portrayed herself as fiscally responsible to attract center-right voters,” he noted.

Arrogance, or acuity?

Analysts are questioning whether Macron’s decision showed political nous and strategy, or will expose him to more accusations of arrogance and a lack of understanding of voter concerns over domestic issues like immigration, public services, the cost of living and employment.

“The question everyone was asking all night long was, ‘Why? Why did he do it?,” Douglas Yates, professor at the American Graduate School in Paris, told CNBC Monday.

“Either his critics are right and he’s so arrogant that he doesn’t understand how hated he is, and he’s going to take a beating in [some form of] divine justice, or he’s a clever strategist and he’s calculated that he can win or, even if he loses these elections, his long-term strategy will benefit,” Yates said.

'That's his gamble': Professor digests possible reasons behind Macron's snap election

Describing Macron’s decision as a “big gamble,” analysts at Deutsche Bank believed the president was “likely hoping to win back some momentum and hope a notable part of the EP results were a protest vote and also encourage other centrist parties to help rally round to limit the charge of Le Pen.”

“His other hope would be that if RN have a bigger part in government, their appeal may diminish before the next Presidential elections in 2027. So [it’s] a big gamble.”



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