Former French president Hollande says Macron ascendency 'is over'

AFP , Saturday 22 Jun 2024

French President Emmanuel Macron's ascendancy is "over", former head of state Francois Hollande told AFP Saturday after his former protege called a snap election likely to hand massive gains to the far right.

Former French president, member of the French left-wing Socialist Party (PS) and candidate for the l
Former French president, member of the French left-wing Socialist Party (PS) and candidate for the left-wing coalition Nouveau Front Populaire (NFP) in the Correze department Francois Hollande (C), flanked by his wife, French actress Julie Gayet (C-R), poses for a photograph as he meets residents during a campaign visit at a local market, ahead of the upcoming legislative elections, in Ursel, central France on June 22, 2024. AFP

 

"I have no scores to settle at all. That's all in the past," Hollande said on the campaign trail in his native Correze department in central France, where he is standing to be an MP.

Suffering at the time from abysmal poll ratings, Socialist Hollande did not stand for a second term in the 2017 election.

Running as a pro-business centrist, his former economy minister Macron pulled off a surprise win that shattered traditional governing parties on the left and the right.

Now just two years into the younger man's second term, "Macronism is over, if indeed it ever existed. But it's over, I say it with no special hostility," Hollande said.

"I don't mean that his presidential term is coming to an end, that's something different. But what he may have represented for a time is over," he added.

Re-elected in 2022 for a second five-year term, Macron lost his absolute majority in parliament in legislative polls the same year.

His party has limped on in minority government, passing hard-fought and controversial reforms including raising the pension age and toughening immigration law.

But a heavy defeat at June 9's European Parliament election prompted Macron to dissolve parliament in hopes of breaking the deadlock.

A new chamber will be elected on June 30 and July 7 with the far-right National Rally (RN) looking set to win the most seats.

'Heavy cost'

France's two-round electoral system makes predicting outcomes tricky, but it is highly unlikely that Macron's gamble will pay off by winning a new majority.

Instead, he could find himself presiding over a government run by an ideological opponent.

Macron's rule has "had a heavy political cost," Hollande said.

"The parties were heavily damaged and public morale was too. The far right has never been so strong."

Hollande's Socialist party has formed an electoral alliance with other left parties including Greens, Communists and hard-left France Unbowed (LFI).

Their New Popular Front (NFP) is currently running second to the RN in the polls, both well ahead of Macron's Renaissance outfit.

"It's time for a political realignment," Hollande said.

"I didn't plan to stand for any election in my position, something very serious had to happen" in the shape of the RN's more than 31 per cent in the European election, he added.

Some Socialist voters have struggled with the idea of backing an alliance with LFI and its fiery leader Jean-Luc Melenchon, with some party figures accused of anti-Semitism and a history of Eurosceptic statements.

"I'm in the framework of an alliance because it has to be done, but there's no kind of confusion" between his positions and Melenchon's, Hollande said.

If elected, "I'll be an MP who will call for responsibility whatever happens... vigilant and committed to finding solutions," he added.

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