Saturday, June 15, 2024

EU elections 2024 live: Macron says France needs ‘clear majority’ after calling snap elections following far-right surge

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Macron calls snap parliamentary election after EU vote drubbing

Far-right gains in the EU elections have triggered a snap parliamentary election in France, with President Emmanuel Macron’s surprise decision to call the vote labelled by many as a high-risk move.

Despite centrist parties retaining an overall majority in the European parliament, across the bloc extreme right parties notched a string of high-profile wins, with a resounding win by the far-right National Rally (RN) party of Marine Le Pen prompting Macron to make the gamble.

The RN won 31.5% of the vote to 15% for Macron’s centrist Renaissance party, according to exit polls.

Marine Le Pen and Jordan Bardella on stage following the EU elections. Photograph: Chang Martin/SIPA/REX/Shutterstock

“We are ready to take power if the French show trust in us,” Le Pen told her party on Sunday evening.

“I cannot act as if nothing had happened,” Macron told the country in a national address.

The French people, he said, must now make “the best choice for itself and future generations”.

Key events

French parliamentary election will be most consequential in the history of the Fifth Republic, minister says

France’s finance minister, Bruno Le Maire, has said that the parliamentary election will be the most consequential in the history of the Fifth Republic.

“This will be the most consequential parliamentary election for France and for the French in the history of the Fifth Republic,” he told RTL radio.

“We must fight for France and for the French. We have three weeks to campaign and convince the French,” he said in a post on X.

Cette élection législative aura les conséquences les plus lourdes de l’histoire de la Ve République. Nous devons nous battre pour la France et pour les Français. Nous avons 3 semaines pour faire campagne et convaincre les Français. pic.twitter.com/jX50P0d6h9

— Bruno Le Maire (@BrunoLeMaire) June 10, 2024

The legislative vote will take place on 30 June, less than a month before the start of the Paris Olympics, with a second round on 7 July. The result is hard to predict.

The outcome will probably depend on how committed leftist and centre-right voters are to the idea of blocking the far-right from power.

Analysts said Emmanuel Macron’s decision (see post at 05.48) aimed to make the best of his weak position, reclaiming the initiative and forcing Le Pen’s National Rally (RN) into election mode faster than it would have liked.

Sébastien Chenu, the deputy chairman of Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally (RN), is out doing the media rounds for party this morning.

“Marine Le Pen is preparing to be president of the republic,” he said.

Chenu has called for right-wing lawmakers from outside the RN to swell its ranks in its battle to beat the French president, Emmanuel Macron, and said the party’s president, 28-year-old Jordan Bardella, would be its candidate for prime minister.

The RN won about 32% of French votes, more than double the 15% or so scored by Macron’s allies, according to projections, with the Socialists just behind on about 14%.

Macron took a huge risk by announcing snap parliamentary elections (on 30 June and 7 July), with many predicting another victory for the RN to become the biggest party in parliament.

If the RN wins a majority, the French president would still direct defence and foreign policy, but would lose the power to set the domestic agenda, from economic policy to security.

The upcoming parliamentary elections won’t affect Macron’s own job, as they are separate to the presidential elections. His term as president runs until 2027.

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Lisa O'Carroll

Lisa O’Carroll

Lisa O’Carroll is the Guardian’s Brussels correspondent

The German Federation on Industries has warned that the rise of AfD and other far right parties will “endanger prosperity” and “social cohesion” in Europe.

Tanja Gönner, BDI general manager, said Europe needs an urgent growth plan to secure its future before damage is wrought.

She said in a statement:

The members of the EU parliament must now take responsibility and quickly agree on a strong leadership team with a growth plan for Europe.

The increase in right-wing populist MPs is a worrying signal. It means that the proportion of those who, like us, want to shape and strengthen Europe is dwindling. Anti-European parties endanger social cohesion and our prosperity.

Argentina’s president congratulates advance of ‘the new right parties’ in Europe

Sam Jones

Sam Jones is Madrid correspondent for the Guardian

Argentina’s far-right, self-styled “anarcho-capitalist” president, Javier Milei, has offered his upper-case congratulations to the European far right.

“A TREMENDOUS ADVANCE BY THE NEW RIGHT PARTIES IN EUROPE,” he wrote on X. “Great news from the old continent … The west must once again take up the flags that made it the most prosperous civilising force in our history: the defence of life, liberty and individual property. Today, we have taken a fundamental step towards the defence of our ideas. LONG LIVE FREEDOM, DAMN IT!”

TREMENDO AVANCE DE LAS NUEVAS DERECHAS EN EUROPA

Llegan grandes noticias desde el Viejo Continente. Las nuevas derechas han arrasado en las elecciones europeas y le han puesto un freno a todos aquellos que empujan la Agenda 2030, una agenda inhumana diseñada por burócratas, para…

— Javier Milei (@JMilei) June 10, 2024

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Giorgia Meloni’s far-right Brothers of Italy party had secured 28.82% of the vote on Monday with 97% of all votes counted – surpassing the 26% she secured in September 2022 national elections.

The decisive victory in the European elections in Italy makes the Italian prime minister one of the few EU leaders to emerge stronger after the vote.

She had pitched the weekend elections for the European parliament as a referendum on her leadership, asking voters to write “Giorgia” on their ballots.

Italy, which will hold 76 of the 720 seats in the new parliament, will likely play a crucial role deciding the balance of power in the bloc.

In brief remarks to the media about 2:00 am, Meloni said she was “extraordinarily proud” of the result, which comes just days before she hosts G7 leaders in Puglia.

“I am proud that this nation presents itself at the G7 and in Europe with the strongest government of all,” she said.

The opposition centre-left Democratic Party came in second with 24%, while another opposition group, the 5-Star Movement, was third with 9.9% of the vote – its worst showing at a countrywide level since its creation in 2009.

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Polish PM Tusk’s Civic Coalition wins EU election – final results

The official results from the electoral commission in Poland have now come in.

They indicate that Polish prime minister Donald Tusk’s Civic Coalition (KO) came first in European parliament elections with 37.1% of the vote.

The main opposition party, the nationalist Law and Justice, had 36.2%, while the far-right Confederation party had 12.1% of the vote.

KO’s coalition partners in government, the centre-right Third Way and the Left, had 6.9% and 6.3% respectively. Turnout was 40.7%.

“Of these large, ambitious countries, of the EU leaders, Poland has shown that democracy, honesty and Europe triumph here,” Tusk told supporters. “I am so moved. We showed that we are a light of hope for Europe.”

You can read more about the official results from the EU elections in this useful explainer here:

Sam Jones

Sam Jones is Madrid correspondent for the Guardian

Although Spanish centrist parties comfortably outperformed the far-right in Sunday’s elections, the far-right Vox party managed to attract more than 1.6m votes and increase its seat count from four to six.

More striking than Vox’s result, however, is the eruption of the Se Acabó la Fiesta party (The Party’s Over). The new far-right outfit, led by the outspoken and controversial social media influencer Luis “Alvise” Pérez, enjoyed a very strong debut, winning more than 800,00 votes and taking three seats.

Pérez responded to his party’s performance with a characteristically inflammatory, xenophobic and rabble-rousing speech.

“Spain has become a party for the corrupt, for mercenaries, for paedophiles and rapists,” he said.

“And there are many Spaniards who anonymously suffer the consequences of all this on a daily basis. Young people without any hope of accessing housing. Old people who are totally unable to defend their own homes. Police and Guardia Civil officers who are being murdered before the indifference of their own government. Homosexuals who are suffering the homophobia of foreign hordes and women who are being raped and sexually assaulted by those same hordes – and we all know that. We have structural unemployment and we have the highest youth unemployment in Europe. We have a countryside where tomatoes now need more documentation to leave the fields than an illegal immigrant needs to get into this country.”

Luis “Alvise” Pérez talks to the media after casting his ballot at a polling station in Seville, southern Spain. Photograph: Raúl Caro Cadenas/EPA

The French president, Emmanuel Macron, has written on X saying: “I have confidence in the ability of the French people to make the fairest choice for themselves and for future generations” after calling a surprise, snap parliamentary election.

“My only ambition is to be useful to our country that I love so much,” he added.

Des élections législatives se tiendront le 30 juin et le 7 juillet.

J’ai confiance en la capacité du peuple français à faire le choix le plus juste pour lui-même et pour les générations futures.

Ma seule ambition est d’être utile à notre pays que j’aime tant.

— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) June 10, 2024

After suffering a crushing defeat at the hands of Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally (RN) in the European parliamentary elections, the French president on Sunday evening unexpectedly announced the election, which will take place on 30 June and 7 July.

Macron said he could not “pretend nothing had happened” and that the “rise of nationalists” is a danger to France and to Europe.

A survey by polling platform Focaldata – shared with the Reuters news agency – shows improving the economy and reducing inflation ranked highest among EU citizens when asked what was the most important thing influencing their vote.

International conflict and war was the second most important concern, followed by immigration and asylum seekers, in the poll of 6,000 citizens in the EU’s five biggest countries by population – Germany, France, Italy, Spain and Poland – plus Sweden.

The survey was done on 6 June, the day voting began in the EU parliament election.

Respondents placed climate change fifth on the list of issues influencing their vote, behind “reducing inequality” which ranked fourth.

However, climate change took the third spot in Sweden and Spain, the latter of which has suffered years-long droughts made more severe by climate change.

In France, Italy and Poland, voters said economic concerns were the main thing influencing their vote, with immigration in second place in France, and war the number two concern in Italy and Spain.

German respondents ranked immigration and asylum seekers as their top concern, followed by wars and then economic concerns.

Paralysis and poker moves: snap analysis of Macron’s election gambit

Reaction to Emmanuel Macron’s shock election announcement continues to roll in.

Celine Bracq, director general of the Odoxa polling agency, told the AFP news agency it was a “poker move” at a time when there is a “strong desire on the part of the French to punish the president”.

It’s something extremely risky. In all likelihood, the National Rally, in the wake of the European elections, could have a majority in the National Assembly and why not an absolute majority?”

Macron could be seeking to “trap” the RN with his sudden election announcement, says Luc Rouban, political scientist at Sciences Po in Paris, arguing the party could have trouble mustering quality candidates to challenge for the 577 seats in the National Assembly.

Mujtaba Rahman, managing director for Europe at Eurasia Group, says there is a serious risk of “cohabitation” – the scenario in which a president and prime minister from opposing political parties have to find a way to run the country together.

The most likely outcome is more fragmentation, more deadlock and chaos. A complete paralysis.”

Analysts say the tumult in France comes at a critical moment, as attention is turning to the country’s 2027 presidential vote, where Macron cannot stand again and National Rally (RN) figurehead Marine Le Pen believes she has her best-ever chance of winning the Élysée Palace.

Sam Jones

The leader of Spain’s conservative People’s party (PP) has hailed the dawn of a new “political cycle” after his party squeaked past the governing socialists to finish first in the European elections.

The PP took 22 seats last night, while the Spanish Socialist Workers party (PSOE) took 20, with the far-right Vox party finishing third with six seats, up two from 2019.

Another far-right faction – Se Acabó la Fiesta (The Party’s Over) – made an emphatic debut, winning three seats, the same number as the PSOE’s coalition partners in the leftwing Sumar platform.

Podemos, once seen as a party that could eclipse the PSOE, saw its seat count drop from six seats to just two. Ahora Repúblicas, a coalition of regional nationalist parties including groupings from Catalonia and the Basque Country, won three seats.

People’s party president Alberto Núñez Feijóo celebrates in Madrid. Photograph: Juanjo Martin/EPA

The PP leader, Alberto Núñez Feijóo – who had sought to make the elections a referendum on the government of PSOE prime minister, Pedro Sánchez – welcomed the results and noted his party had taken 700,000 more votes than the socialists.

We’re seeing a new political cycle. We’re faced with a new political responsibility, which we accept humbly and with a sense of statesmanship. It’s obvious that walls have lost and we’ll once again build bridges instead. It’s obvious that the discourse of fear hasn’t won.”

Sánchez congratulated the PP but said Sunday’s results showed that his party was “the only govening option capable of confronting the far-right wave that is sweeping Europe and Spain”.

The Vox leader, Santiago Abascal, reacted to the results by urging Sánchez “to do what’s been done in France and Belgium and dissolve parliament and call elections so Spaniards can vote”.

Ahead of the vote, political and public attention had been focused on a saga embroiling the prime minister’s wife, Begoña Gómez, who is being investigated over allegations of corruption and influence-peddling – allegations that Sánchez has dismissed as politically motivated and totally baseless.

However, his opponents had used the issue to ramp up pressure on Sánchez, whom they accuse of being self-serving, hypocritical and hellbent on retaining power.

In the aftermath of last year’s inconclusive general election, Sánchez managed to secure another term by performing a U-turn and promising Catalan pro-independence parties a controversial and divisive amnesty law in return for their support in returning him to office.

What next after Macron’s call for snap elections?

France will go to the polls to vote for the new National Assembly on 30 June, with a second round on 7 July, giving Macron’s party just three weeks to make up ground on the RN in a short but intense burst of campaigning before France hosts the Paris Olympics in July and August.

In a best-case scenario for Macron, his centrist alliance would recover the absolute majority it lost in 2022 legislative elections and give new impetus to the remaining three years of his presidential mandate.

The nightmare outcome for him would be the RN winning a majority. That would probably see its leader Jordan Bardella, a protege of Le Pen, become prime minister in an uncomfortable “cohabitation” with Macron.

French president Emmanuel Macron greets voters outside a polling station on Sunday. Photograph: Xinhua/REX/Shutterstock

A middle scenario, analysts say, would be an anti-extremism coalition between Macron’s centrists and the traditional right-wing Republicans or even left-wing Socialists.

Speaking to the AFP news agency, the chief of Macron’s Renaissance and foreign minister Stephane Sejourne gave an indication of how the campaign could play out.

He said the party would not challenge outgoing MPs from the traditional left and right for their seats if they were prepared to “invest in a clear project” around the presidential majority.

Leaders of left-wing parties called on their camp to unite to face the RN challenge.

Despite the late hour of Emmanuel Macron’s surprise election announcement, the news has made it on to the front pages of the France’s major newspaper’s.

Under the headline, “The shock”, Le Figaro says it is an “unprecedented decision” and a “leap into the unknown for the country”.

Découvrez la Une du «Figaro» du lundi 10 juin.

L’exécutif prend le risque de confier demain les rênes du pouvoir au parti dont il avait promis d’endiguer la progression ! Cette décision inouïe est pour le pays un saut dans l’inconnu, estime @abrezet.
https://t.co/9CH934a2Sj pic.twitter.com/nQ3ubOqZE3

— Le Figaro (@Le_Figaro) June 9, 2024

“Dissolution: extreme gamble”, is the headline on Libération.

In its analysis, the paper notes that the “populist right has made an unprecedented breakthrough in Europe.”

“The thunderclap”, writes Le Parisien, above a picture of a stern looking Macron making his announcement to the country.

The key lesson from Sunday night is that European parliament elections can matter a lot for national politics, Pawel Zerka, senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) has said.

In France, the disappointingly poor result of Emmanual Macron’s party has prompted him to call early legislative election for the end of June (with this unexpected and risky move, he seeks to get a second life, and avoid a lame duck status – but it could also lead to a Macron-Le Pen cohabitation).

The most interesting thing to watch in the weeks ahead is the effect this election could have on the EU’s major decisions, says Zerka, in his snap analysis on the results.

This shift could impact policies on climate, migration, enlargement, budget, and rule of law if right-wing parties collaborate … There is also a risk of growing divisions and even chaos within the European Parliament and the European Council, which threatens European unity and capacity to achieve compromises, so much in need today given the Ukraine war and the potential for another Trump presidency.

France’s snap election explained

Jon Henley

Jon Henley

In a shock move, France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, has called a snap parliamentary election that will be held within the next 30 days. What happened exactly, why – and what might come next?

What were Macron’s reasons?

The president said the decision was a “serious and heavy” one, but that he could not resign himself to the fact that “far-right parties … are progressing everywhere on the continent”.

After his centrist coalition lost its parliamentary majority in the 2022 elections, Macron was resorted to pushing through legislation without a vote in the assembly, using a controversial constitutional tool known as 49/3.

Election staff count ballots for the 2024 European parliament election at the Bayeux town hall counting centre in France. Photograph: Artur Widak/NurPhoto/REX/Shutterstock

Sunday’s dramatic move, however, is a huge gamble: Macron’s party could suffer yet more losses. However, most analysts predict that while the far-right party may emerge with more MPs, it will probably not win enough seats to give it a majority either – meaning the next parliament may be even messier and more ineffective than the current one.

It could be that he is looking at a neutralising “cohabitation effect”. If Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally (RN) were to score well and, for example, the party’s president, Jordan Bardella, were offered the job of prime minister, two and a half years in government may be just enough time to render the far right unpopular too.

How have National Rally responded?

Bardella was the first to urge Macron to call snap legislative elections, telling supporters after the projections were announced that French voters had “expressed a desire for change”. The country has “given its verdict and there is no appeal”, he said.

Le Pen, the party’s figurehead and presidential candidate, said she could “only welcome this decision, which is in keeping with the logic of the institutions of the Fifth Republic”. She said the party was “ready to take power if the French people have confidence in us in these forthcoming legislative elections”.

The Nordic countries bucked the overall trend in the EU elections, with left-wing and green parties making gains, official results showed, while far-right parties saw their support diminish.

In Sweden, the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats, which is propping up Ulf Kristersson’s government, had been expected to gain votes and pass Kristersson’s conservative Moderate Party to become the second largest party – as it did in the country’s 2022 general election.

Instead, the party ended up losing ground for the first time in the party’s history. It won 13.2% of the vote, down 2.1 percentage points from the 2019 election – with more than 90% of votes counted.

Swedish Green Party members and candidates celebrate as EU election results come in. Photograph: Nicklas Thegerstrom/Reuters

The Green party emerged as the country’s third largest with 13.8% of the vote, an increase of 2.3 percentage points compared to the 2019 election.

Meanwhile, Denmark saw a surprise surge in support for the Socialist People’s Party (SF), which became the largest party with 17.4% of the vote, up 4.2 percentage points compared to the 2019 result – with all votes counted.

The ruling Social Democrats lost 5.9 percentage points, winning 15.6% of the votes.

Prime minister Mette Frederiksen said that SF was the party closest to the Social Democrats politically and that she was happy to see left-wing parties gaining ground.

“In large parts of Europe, the right-wing has made significant progress. Here we stand out in Denmark,” she said in a post on Instagram.

‘We will build a bastion against the extremes’, says von der Leyen

Preliminary results show that hard-right parties finished first in France, Italy and Austria and came second in Germany and the Netherlands, although centrist mainstream parties will probably keep an overall majority in the European parliament.

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, whose centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) scored top place in the EU parliament, said she would “build a bastion against the extremes from the left and from the right.”

There remains a majority in the centre for a strong Europe and that is crucial for stability. In other words the centre is holding.”

Socialists won the largest share of the vote in Malta, Romania and Sweden, helping the centre-left to retain its position as the parliament’s second-largest group, albeit far weaker than the 1990s, when it led many more governments.

The EPP, Socialists and Democrats, the centrist Renew group and the Greens were on course for 462 of the 720 seats, a 64.1% share, compared with their 69.2% share in the slightly smaller outgoing parliament, according to a projection based on final and provisional results late on Sunday.

Macron calls snap parliamentary election after EU vote drubbing

Far-right gains in the EU elections have triggered a snap parliamentary election in France, with President Emmanuel Macron’s surprise decision to call the vote labelled by many as a high-risk move.

Despite centrist parties retaining an overall majority in the European parliament, across the bloc extreme right parties notched a string of high-profile wins, with a resounding win by the far-right National Rally (RN) party of Marine Le Pen prompting Macron to make the gamble.

The RN won 31.5% of the vote to 15% for Macron’s centrist Renaissance party, according to exit polls.

Marine Le Pen and Jordan Bardella on stage following the EU elections. Photograph: Chang Martin/SIPA/REX/Shutterstock

“We are ready to take power if the French show trust in us,” Le Pen told her party on Sunday evening.

“I cannot act as if nothing had happened,” Macron told the country in a national address.

The French people, he said, must now make “the best choice for itself and future generations”.

Welcome and summary

Welcome to the Guardian’s continuing coverage of the European parliamentary elections.

It’s 6am in Brussels, where EU lawmaking is set to get more complicated, after parties on the populist right made huge gains in many countries, while in others, support for the centre-right establishment held and leftwing parties made surprising gains.

Perhaps the most surprising response to the surge in support for populist parties was from France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, who called snap legislative elections after a crushing defeat by Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally.

The RN won about 32% of French votes, more than double the 15% or so scored by Macron’s allies, according to projections, with the Socialists just behind on about 14%.

“I cannot act as if nothing had happened,” Macron said. “I have decided to give you the choice.”

We’ll have much more reaction to results from across the continent, but first here’s a summary of the major results:

  • Despite gains for the far and radical right on Sunday, the mainstream, pro-European parties were on course to hold their majority in the EU parliament. The centre-right European People’s party (EPP), which also topped the polls in Spain and Poland, won the largest number of seats, boosting the chances of its lead candidate, Ursula von der Leyen, to secure a second term as European Commission president. “There remains a majority in the centre for a strong Europe and that is crucial for stability. In other words the centre is holding,” von der Leyen said. The extremes on the left and right had gained support, she said, which put “great responsibility on the parties in the centre”.

  • Socialists won the largest share of the vote in Malta, Romania and Sweden, helping the centre-left to retain its position as the parliament’s second-largest group, albeit far weaker than the 1990s, when it led many more governments. The EPP, Socialists and Democrats, the centrist Renew group and the Greens were on course for 462 of the 720 seats, a 64.1% share, compared with their 69.2% share in the slightly smaller outgoing parliament, according to a projection based on final and provisional results late on Sunday.

  • Olaf Scholz’s coalition had a bad night in Germany, as the far-right Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) made significant gains. The Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union, now in opposition, took a decisive lead, with 30.9% of the vote, according to provisional results. The AfD jumped to 14.2% from 11% in 2019, despite a slew of scandals, including its lead candidate saying that the SS, the Nazi’s main paramilitary force, were “not all criminals”.

  • Italian prime minister Georgia Meloni’s thanked voters after exit polls showed her hard-right Brothers of Italy party winning 26%-30% of the vote, comfortably ahead of its centre-left rivals on 21%-25%.

  • The Nordic countries bucked the overall trend in the EU elections, with left-wing and green parties making gains, official results showed, while far-right parties saw their support diminish. Denmark saw a surprise surge in support for the Socialist People’s Party (SF), which became the largest party with 17.4% of the vote, up 4.2 percentage points compared to the 2019 result – with all votes counted.

  • Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer has said he heard voters’ “message” and will seek to address their concerns ahead of national elections later this year, including cracking down on “illegal migration”. Nehammer was speaking after close-to-final results showed that far-right party FPOe had come first in EU elections with 25.7% of the vote, just ahead of his ruling conservative People’s Party (OeVP) which stood at 24.7%.

  • In the Netherlands, Geert Wilders’ far-right party was second behind a Left-Green alliance, but appeared to have fallen short of expectations. The Freedom party took 17% of the vote, while the Left-Green alliance, led by the former EU Commission vice-president Frans Timmermans, was on 21.1%.

  • The Fidesz party of Hungary’s Viktor Orbán received the most votes, but its performance was its worse in years. With 84.36% of votes counted, the ruling party was at 44.17%, while Péter Magyar’s opposition Tisza party was at 30.09%. Magyar called the election the Fidesz government’s Waterloo and “the beginning of the end”.

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