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Olympics 2024: Ahead of the Games, France has a hung parliament and faces anarchy

Olympics 2024: Ahead of the Games, France has a hung parliament and faces anarchy

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Virendra Pandit

New Delhi: The Olympic Games 2024 (July 26-August 11) are barely two weeks away. But the host Paris is no longer in a festive mood because of the unexpected political uncertainties suddenly dawning on it and the feared chaos in Europe’s largest Catholic nation.

President Emmanuel Macron refused the resignation of Prime Minister Gabriel Attal, asking him on Monday to remain temporarily as the head of the government after the results of the chaotic snap polls, which produced a hung parliament, left the government in limbo.

Angry and disillusioned, the French voters silently waited for the right opportunity to strike. They split the legislature on the left, center, and far right, leaving no faction even close to the majority needed to form a government. The results from Sunday’s vote raised the risk of paralysis for the European Union’s second-largest economy after Germany.

Worried at the rise of the far right in some European countries, the centrist President Macron gambled that his decision to call snap elections would give France a “moment of clarification,” but the outcome showed the opposite, less than three weeks before the start of the Paris Olympics, when the country will be under an international spotlight.

The poll results reflected on the bourses. France’s main share index opened with a dip, but quickly recovered, possibly because markets had feared an outright victory for the far right or the leftist coalition, the media reported.

PM Attal had said he would remain in office if needed but offered his resignation on Monday morning. Macron, who named him the PM just seven months ago, immediately asked him to stay on “to ensure the stability of the country.” Macron’s top political allies joined the 90-minute meeting with Attal at the presidential palace.

Attal on Sunday made it clear that he disagreed with Macron’s decision to call the surprise elections. The results of two rounds of voting left no obvious path to form a government for either the leftist coalition that came in first, Macron’s centrist alliance, or the far right.

Newly-elected and returning lawmakers were expected to gather at the National Assembly to begin negotiations soon.

Macron himself will leave midweek for a NATO Summit in Washington.

Political deadlock could have far-ranging implications for the ongoing Russian war in Ukraine, global diplomacy, and Europe’s economic stability. Still, at least one European leader said the results were a ‘relief.’

“In Paris enthusiasm, in Moscow disappointment, in Kyiv relief. Enough to be happy in Warsaw,” Poland’s Prime Minister Donald Tusk, a former European Union Council head, wrote late on Sunday, on X.

According to official results released early on Monday, all three main political blocs in France fell far short of the 289 seats necessary to control the 577-seat National Assembly, the more powerful of France’s two legislative chambers.

The results showed just over 180 seats for the New Popular Front leftist coalition, which placed first, ahead of Macron’s centrist alliance, with more than 160 seats. Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally and its allies were restricted to third place, although their more than 140 seats were still way ahead of the party’s previous best showing of 89 seats in 2022.

Macron has three more years remaining on his presidential term.

Rather than rallying behind Macron as he’d hoped, millions of voters took the vote as an opportunity to vent anger about inflation, crime, immigration, and other grievances — including his style of government.

The New Popular Front’s leaders immediately pushed Macron to give them the first chance to form a government and propose a prime minister.
The faction pledges to roll back many of Macron’s headline reforms, embark on a costly program of public spending, and take a tougher line against Israel because of its war with Hamas. But it’s not clear, even among the left, who could lead the government without alienating crucial allies.

“We need someone who offers consensus,” said Olivier Faure, who heads the Socialist Party, which joined the leftist coalition and was still sorting out how many seats it won on Monday.

Macron warns that the left’s economic program of tens of billions of euros in public spending, partly financed by taxes on wealth and hikes for high earners, could be ruinous for France, already criticized by EU watchdogs for its debt.

The political agreement between the left and center to block the National Rally was largely successful. Many voters decided that keeping the far right from power was more important than anything else, backing its opponents in the run-off, even if they weren’t from the political camp they usually support.

National Rally leader Le Pen, who was expected to make a fourth run for the French presidency in 2027, said the elections laid the groundwork for “the victory of tomorrow.”

Racism and antisemitism marred the electoral campaign, along with alleged Russian disinformation campaigns, and more than 50 candidates reported being physically attacked — highly unusual for France.

Unlike other countries in Europe that are more accustomed to coalition governments, France doesn’t have a tradition of lawmakers from rival political camps coming together to form a majority.

France is also more centralized than many other European countries, with many more decisions made in Paris.


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