Emmanuel Macron announces early elections: Olympics 'will not be affected'

With 46 days to go before the start of the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, French President Emmanuel Macron has called snap parliamentary elections in France this Sunday, after the far-right National Rally (RN) party won almost a third of the vote in the country’s European Parliament elections. 

“In a few moments, I will sign the decree calling the legislative elections, the first round of which will take place on 30 June and the run-off on 7 July,” the president announced in a televised message broadcast an hour after the polls closed. 

The French president lamented a poor result “for the parties that defend Europe” and considered that “the rise of nationalists and demagogues is a danger” for France. “This decision [to call elections] is serious and weighty, but above all it is an act of confidence,” he added. 

The National Rally won the elections with 31% of the vote. It is the first French party to win more than 30% of the vote in a European election since 1984. Macron’s Renaissance party was a distant second, with just over 15.2% of the vote. The Socialists completed the top three with 14% of the vote.

“Emmanuel Macron is tonight a weakened president” by this “resounding defeat” and “cannot remain deaf to the message” sent by these results, declared the National Rally candidate, Jordan Bardella, who assured that “this unprecedented defeat marks the end of a cycle”.

The French will therefore return to the polls on 30th June in the first round and on 7th July in the second round to elect the 577 deputies of the French National Assembly, currently with a relative majority for Macron and his allies and with the far-right National Rally (RN, in French) as the main opposition force.

Although it is the president who appoints the prime minister, a hypothetical victory for the RN could influence this choice and force Macron to live with a government of a different political colour to his own. Macron’s mandate ends in 2027 and his current prime minister is Gabriel Attal. 

This call for early elections to the National Assembly is the fifth since the proclamation of the Fifth Republic in 1958, after 1997, 1986, 1981, 1968 and 1962. According to Elysee sources, Macron’s decision shows “courage” to try to “overcome” the situation created. “You should never be afraid of the French people,” they added. 

The second round of the election will take place less than three weeks before the start of the Paris Olympics (26 July), but the sources assured that this event “will not be affected” regardless of the election results, as everything is ready after “meticulous preparation”.

The organisers of the Paris Olympics have promised a “great national party”, but with just 100 days to go, France’s divisive politics and gloomy mood are casting a shadow over the anticipation. While previous polls have shown majority support for the Olympics, a survey conducted on 25 March by the Viavoice group found that 57 per cent of Parisians surveyed expressed “little” or “no” enthusiasm for the event.

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