(Paris) Turnaround in France. Faced with the clear victory of the National Rally in the European elections, President Emmanuel Macron announced on Sunday the dissolution of Parliament and called early legislative elections in less than a month. A very high-risk bet, which could lead to cohabitation and tumultuous years on the French political scene.

“This decision is serious, heavy, but above all it is an act of confidence”, underlined Mr. Macron during an address to the nation, affirming his “confidence […] in the capacity of the French people to do the fairest choice for himself and for future generations.”

“This is an essential time for clarification. Let the sovereign people have their say…” he added.

A presidential prerogative in the French Constitution, the dissolution announced by Mr. Macron is the 6th since 1958, the eighth in more than 100 years. The most recent, decided by Jacques Chirac in 1997, saw the left win a majority of seats, giving rise to the appointment of the socialist Lionel Jospin to Matignon and to cohabitation.

The European elections, where more than 360 million voters were called to the polls in 27 countries to nominate 720 deputies, took place from Thursday to Sunday in a climate weighed down by a gloomy economic situation and the war in Ukraine, with a rate participation at 51%.

In France, the polls had certainly predicted a large victory for the National Rally (RN). But with nearly 31.5% of the votes (and 30 seats out of the 81 allocated to France), Marine Le Pen’s party definitely struck a major blow, achieving its best score in a major election and contributing significantly decisive to the spectacular surge of the radical right in the European Parliament.

The “head of the list” of the Rally, Jordan Bardella, considered to be Ms. Le Pen’s heir apparent, did not hesitate to underline the “scathing disavowal” of the Macronist party (Renaissance), whose list, led by Valérie Hayer, is peaking at 14.5%, half as much as the National Rally.

Adding insult to injury, the 28-year-old politician struck a presidential tone with his victory speech in Paris, beginning with “My dear compatriots” and adding “the French people have delivered their verdict.” The National Rally is “ready to exercise power”, affirmed Marine Le Pen, before an executive office with Mr. Bardella, in a format mimicking a council of ministers.

It goes without saying that Emmanuel Macron is playing big by triggering these elections, the first round of which will take place in 20 days.

“It’s indeed a poker move,” summarizes political scientist Jean Petaux, comparing Emmanuel Macron to traders who make “plays” on the stock market. “But he had never gone this far in this Russian roulette practice. »

The French presidential camp had already lost its absolute majority in the Assembly after Macron’s re-election to the Élysée in 2022, followed immediately by legislative elections which saw a historic breakthrough by the far right, with 89 deputies for the RN. A poll, published this winter, also gave a majority to the RN in the event of the dissolution of the Assembly. With this early election, the president therefore runs the risk – very real – of opening the door to his adversaries.

That said, Jean Petaux believes that all scenarios are possible.

First scenario: there is still no absolute majority and the Assembly remains ungovernable, whether the ruling party is Renaissance or the National Rally.

Second scenario: the National Rally obtains an absolute majority and imposes its prime minister (or prime ministers) on Emmanuel Macron, who is forced to cohabit with the radical right for the next three years. A scenario that predicts many frictions between the Élysée (residence of the President of the Republic) and Matignon (residence of the Prime Minister), where the agendas will no longer be compatible.

Third scenario: the left-wing parties have time to organize themselves as a bloc and obtain a relative majority. A plausible scenario, considering the more than satisfactory scores of the Socialist Party (14%), France Insoumise (10%) and the Greens (5%) in the European elections, i.e. 29%, almost as much as the RN.

One thing is certain, the participation rate will undoubtedly be much higher than in the legislative elections of June 2022, predicts Jean Petaux.

“The effect of astonishment and dramatization created by Macron will come into play. The fact that the RN is at the gates of power will create, I think, a fairly significant political shock. We will really be in a national election with a tension effect which will generate greater participation”, with significant impacts on the final result, concludes the political scientist.

Emmanuel Macron is due to go to ceremonies in the center of the country this Monday, but he also promised to speak this week to state the “orientation” that he believes is “just for the nation”. In the meantime, time is suspended in the National Assembly. “The whole program is canceled. It’s a bit of a blow. Nobody saw the blow coming,” slips a parliamentary source.