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French leader calls for new legislative vote after far-right victory in EU polls

Paris — Right-wing parties chalked up major gains in several key European countries following the European parliament elections — with France facing perhaps the biggest fallout.

French President Emmanuel Macron has dissolved parliament and called for new legislative elections later this month, after the far-right National Rally scooped up nearly one-third of the vote in Sunday’s European parliament elections — more than twice the share for Macron’s ruling Renaissance Party.  

Shortly after the first results were announced, Macron was on national TV, announcing snap legislative elections in France — three years ahead of schedule. The first round of voting takes place June 30.  

For centrist Macron, it’s a gamble that he might not win. If the National Rally scores strongly in this national poll, its 28-year-old president, Jordan Bardella, could become France’s next prime minister.  

“What happened last night was a political earthquake,” said Celia Belin, who heads the Paris office for the European Council on Foreign Relations. The results themselves were not surprising, she said, as weeks of polling showed the National Rally scoring strongly, but what was surprising was Macron’s reaction. 

“Snap elections are not common at all … and usually are actually lost by the president who calls for these elections,” Belin said. 

Gael Sliman, who heads polling agency Odoxa, was also surprised by Macron’s move.

The president may be gambling he will prevail in these legislatives, but Sliman told France Info radio it’s quite possible France will usher in the Olympics next month with a far-right prime minister — or see gridlock if nobody wins an absolute majority.  

The far right also scored strongly in several other key EU countries, including Germany, Austria and Italy. The European Council’s Belin said that will further divide the EU parliament and create gridlock.  

“You might see even more opposition to climate action. Even more opposition to additional sanctions against Russia, for example. Or even more opposition toward actually doing anything about China,” she said.  

But overall, the center right remained the main winner in these EU elections — good news for European Council President Ursula von der Leyen, who is campaigning for another term in office.  

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