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Sunday, June 16, 2024
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HomeEditor's PickReckless or rational? Macron’s election gamble after gains by the right

Reckless or rational? Macron’s election gamble after gains by the right

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FACED with an accurately predicted defeat in the European Union parliamentary elections (for once the opinion polls didn’t lie; an astonishing, historic third of the vote went to Marine Le Pen’s National Rally list), French President Emmanuel Macron has decided to reshuffle the political pack by calling a snap General Election in the country for the end of the month.

There is something quite dangerous in this decision for the well-despised French leader. Clearly the sly fox is trying to play an astute political poker game. The gamble is this: if the National Rally (RN) wins a majority and therefore becomes the government, Macron will finally have a practical demonstration of what he has long claimed: that Le Pen’s party is incapable of running the country. He can therefore lure them into a trap, exposing their incompetence and destroying their hopes of winning the presidential election in 2027 (and thus making good on his long-derided claim that he would shrink the size of the ever-growing ‘far right’ by the end of his political mandate).

Equally, if the RN wins only a relative majority, Macron can attempt to put it on the back foot by asking its opponents in parliament to form a ‘Popular Front’-type majority, and therefore to put himself at the head of an ‘anti-fascist’ political alliance working together to resist the populist assault.

You might think this is ‘heads I win, tails you lose’ for the cunning President. And it’s certain that, in order to save his political reputation (the ultimate goal is replacing Ursula von der Leyen as President of the European Commission once his French mandate is over) when faced with such overwhelming popular hostility, it’s a strong suit to play: create political chaos in order to make yourself look like the only sane voice in the country.

The reality is, though, that the likely blowback from this is immense. If the RN wins outright, or is just the largest party without an absolute majority, it is politically canny enough to blame the President for being the cause of any subsequent paralysis. And it will be believed by a large majority of electors who rightly see Macron as the real problem to be dealt with in France.

On top of that, if he really believes he can cobble together a majority from a rag-tag group of ‘anti-RN’ politicians in a future parliament, he really has lost his mind. Most candidates will be attempting to get elected (or re-elected) by measuring their distance from the current President, not their proximity. The French are used to political turncoats, but not quite at such scale and in such fraught circumstances.

Moreover, politically, and not without irony, having tried to push his message, through his weak EU parliamentary candidate Valérie Hayer, that the future of Europe was at stake in this election, Macron has now in effect dismissed the relevance of Europe by declaring that the most important thing is, in fact, the future of France. That, after all, is what a national general election is destined to sort out: how real sovereignty is exercised, not the illusory one of ‘European’ ‘sovereignty’. He has shot himself in the foot over the issue he holds closest to his heart.

In addition, and perhaps most damagingly, he has started the battle by conceding to his opponent. Throughout the European election hustings, Jordan Bardella, head of the RN list as well as the party’s president, told everyone who wanted to listen that he would demand a dissolution of parliament in the event that his list won. Which is exactly what he has got. So not only has his party decisively ‘won’ the European election, he’s already ‘won’ the opening battle of the just announced General Election. His party look like winners before a single vote has been cast.

All this may be finely calculated, calibrated, and strategised at the Macron HQ. Who knows? It’s often hard to tell if he draws the line between rationality and recklessness in his political leadership. Perhaps he’s just bored and wants something interesting to do. Regardless, he has thrown caution to the wind, tipped over the political table, and, much like the imminent election in the UK, given a substantial kick to the political hornets’ nest. We’ll have to see if it’s him who gets stung to death as a result.

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Richard Ings
Richard Ings
Richard Ings is an actor, musician, part-time revolutionary and one-time parliamentary candidate for the Brexit Party. He can be found on Twitter @richardcings or richard.ings@thedemocrats.org.uk. He writes at https://richardings.substack.com/.

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