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France’s snap parliamentary elections: What you need to know

President Emmanuel Macron threw French politics into chaos on Sunday when he unexpectedly called for a snap election.

The unexpected move happened after his party was crushed by the far right in the European Parliament elections. Mr. Macron dissolved the House of Representatives of the French Parliament and said the first round of legislative elections would be held on June 30.

France is currently in an unpredictable situation, with the future of Mr. Macron’s second term possibly at stake. With less than a month until the election, parties are now vying for candidates, honing their messages and, in some cases, building coalitions.

Here’s what you need to know about the snap election.

France’s far-right, anti-immigrant National Rally Party, led by Marine Le Pen and herself extremely famous protégé, Jordan Bardellarose to first place in European Parliament elections on Sunday with about 31.4 percent of the vote. Mr. Macron’s centrist Renaissance Party came in second place with about 14.6%.

Mr. Macron admitted heavy defeat in a national television broadcast that evening.

“France needs a clear majority to move forward in serenity and harmony,” Mr. Macron said, explaining why he decided to call legislative elections.

That involved taking the extremely rare move of dissolving the 577-seat National Assembly, a presidential prerogative in France. Mr. Macron is the first president to do so since 1997.

When Mr. Macron elected to a second term in 2022, his party failed to win an outright majority. The centrist coalition he formed has since governed with a slim majority – but struggled to pass some bills without support from the opposition.

Mr. Macron has no obligation to dissolve Parliament, even if the European vote causes him to lose his job with only three years left in his presidential term. Analysts are still analyzing his motives, although many suspect that he believes a dissolution has become inevitable – conservative lawmakers are threatening to overthrow his government in autumn. Shocking the country with a surprise election could also be a way for Mr Macron to prevent the opposition from organizing – and offer voters a clear choice between him or the far right.

The move is seen as a gamble: If the National Rally Party repeats its performance in national elections, France could become nearly untenable, as Mr. Parliament was hostile to everything he believed in.

Ms. Le Pen welcomed the election announcement and expressed confidence that her party could win a majority. “We are ready to turn the country around,” she told cheering supporters in Paris on Sunday night.

The presidency is France’s most powerful political office, with the ability to govern by decree. But approval by Parliament, especially the National Assembly, is required for most major domestic policy changes and major pieces of legislation, such as spending bills or legislation. amending constitution.

Unlike the Senate, France’s other parliamentary body, the National Assembly is directly elected by the people and can overthrow the French cabinet with a vote of no confidence. It also has more leeway to legislate and challenge the executive branch, and often gets the last word if the two chambers cannot agree on a bill.

Mr. Macron’s party and its centrist allies currently hold 250 seats in the National Assembly, short of the 289 needed for an absolute majority. The National Rally Party holds 88 seats, while the mainstream conservative Republican Party has 61 seats. A fragile coalition of far-left, Socialist and Green lawmakers holds 149 seats. The remainder is held by smaller groups or lawmakers unaffiliated with any party.

The election for 577 seats in the National Assembly will be held in two rounds – round one on June 30 and round two on July 7.

France’s 577 constituencies – each constituting one seat – include the mainland, overseas provinces and territories, as well as French citizens living abroad. Unlike many of its European neighbors, France awards seats to candidates who receive the most votes in each region, not based on the proportion of total votes cast nationwide.

That means there will be 577 separate races, with local dynamics and peculiarities – unlike the European parliamentary elections where each party fields a single nationwide list of candidates.

The number of contestants who can participate in the first round in each district is limited, but there are specific thresholds for making it to the second round. Although in most cases the runoff will have the two candidates with the highest number of votes, in rare cases it can have three or even four candidates. Whoever gets the most votes in that race wins the race. (Under some conditions, the candidate who receives more than 50 percent of the vote in the first round wins outright.)

Since the election has just been announced, there are no reliable opinion polls yet.

Despite its victory in the European elections, it remains unclear whether the National Rally Party will be able to win a significantly larger number of seats in the lower house of the French National Assembly.

“It is difficult to predict the outcome of European elections for legislative elections,” said Luc Rouban, a senior researcher at the Center for Political Studies at Sciences Po in Paris. “It is unlikely that the National Protest will have the same success.”

With no time left to campaign, left-wing parties are scrambling to unite Just like they did in 2022 by avoiding competing candidates in each district. But Unity on the French left may be elusiveand it is unclear whether the parties can reach such an agreement.

If Mr Macron cannot muster a strong parliamentary majority, he could find himself in a rare “coexistence” situation – where the president and the National Assembly are on opposite political sides.

In that scenario, Mr. Macron would be forced to choose a prime minister from another political party — which could potentially hinder much of his domestic agenda. Foreign policy, which is the president’s prerogative, would theoretically be largely unaffected.


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