‘Time now to take action’: Macron exhorts French moderates to coalesce for snap vote

France’s president pushes back on claim he played into far right’s hands with dispersal of parliament after loss in EU elections; rails against extremes, ‘unnatural alliances’

France's President Emmanuel Macron delivers remarks during a press conference held at the Pavillon Cambon Capucines in Paris, June 12, 2024. (Stephane de Sakutin / AFP)
France's President Emmanuel Macron delivers remarks during a press conference held at the Pavillon Cambon Capucines in Paris, June 12, 2024. (Stephane de Sakutin / AFP)

PARIS (AP) — French President Emmanuel Macron called Wednesday for moderate politicians from the left and the right to regroup to defeat the far right in general elections.

Macron, a pro-business centrist, said he wants “men and women of goodwill who were able to say ‘no’ to extremes to join together to be able to build a joint project” for the country.

A somber-looking Macron was addressing French voters for the first time since he called for a snap national election following a crushing defeat of his party by the far right in the European parliamentary vote.

Unlike in his recent national addresses in which Macron focused on Russia’s war in Ukraine, ways Europe should forge a common defense policy independent of the United States, and shoring up trade protections against China, Macron on Wednesday stuck to France’s internal issues favored by the surging right, such as curbing immigration, crime, and Islamic separatism in France.

He said he decided to dissolve the National Assembly, France’s lower house of parliament, because he could not ignore the new political reality after his pro-European party was handed a chastening defeat and garnered less than half the support of the National Rally with its star leader, Jordan Bardella.

His move Sunday triggered an early legislative election that will take place three weeks after the far-right National Rally party of Marine Le Pen triumphed at the election for the European Union Parliament.

French far-right Rassemblement National (RN) party leader Marine Le Pen (L) speaks as party President Jordan Bardella listens after French President Emmanuel Macron announced his call for new general elections, during an evening gathering on the final day of the European Parliament election, at the Pavillon Chesnaie du Roy in Paris, June 9, 2024. (Julien De Rosa/AFP)

Macron, who has three years left of his second presidential term, hopes voters will band together to contain the far right in national elections in a way they didn’t in European ones.

“Things are simple today: we have unnatural alliances at both extremes, who quite agree on nothing except the jobs to be shared, and who will not be able to implement any program,” Macron said during an opening address at a press conference in Paris.

As for his own centrist alliance, Macron said: “We’re not perfect, we haven’t done everything right, but we have results… and above all, we know how to act.”

Sunday’s decision to dissolve parliament and send to the polls voters who just expressed their discontent with Macron’s politics was a risky move that could result in the French far-right leading a government for the first time since World War II.

French President Emmanuel Macron speaking during a televised address in which he announced he is dissolving the National Assembly, the French Parliament’s lower house, in Paris, June 9, 2024. (Ludovic Marin/AFP)

Potential alliances and France’s two-round voting system in national elections make the outcome of the vote highly uncertain.

Macron on Wednesday rebuffed accusations that his move to call snap legislative elections would help the far-right take power in France.

“It’s about allowing political forces chosen by the French to be able to govern,” he said during a press conference in Paris. He added that it’s “awkward to think it has to be the extreme right or political extremes. Or maybe you’ve got the spirit of defeat spread everywhere.”

“If that’s what people are afraid of, it’s time now to take action,” he said.

Illustrative: A protestor holds a placard reading ‘Eh Bardella! Without immigration, you would not be there, then shut up ungrateful,’ referring to the French far-right leader’s Italian-born parents, in a demonstration against the far right after its success in the European elections, at Place de la Republique in Paris, on June 11, 2024. (Zakaria Abdelkafi / AFP)

Opposition parties on the left and right have been scrambling to form alliances and field candidates in the early legislative balloting that will take place on June 30 and July 7.

While sharp differences between parties remain on either side of the political spectrum, prominent figures calling for a united front appear to have one thing in common: They don’t want to cooperate with Macron.

Despite their divisions, left-wing parties agreed late Monday to form an alliance that includes the Greens, the Socialists, the Communists and the far-left France Unbowed of Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

File – French Founder of La France Insoumise (LFI), or ‘France Unbowed,’ far-left party Jean-Luc Mélenchon (C) gestures as he speaks at a pro-Palestinian protest in front of the United Nations Offices in Geneva on February 3, 2024. (Fabrice Coffrini / AFP)

On the right, Eric Ciotti, leader of the conservative Les Republicains provoked outrage from some senior members of his party by embracing the far-right National Rally party, breaking a longstanding boycott of a faction that has a history of racism and xenophobia.

National Rally leader Marine Le Pen is working to consolidate power on the right in an effort to translate her party’s triumph in the EU election into a national win. The far-right party is expected to win the most French seats in the European Parliament, potentially as many as 30 of France’s 81.

Times of Israel Staff contributed to this report.

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