With 81 MPs, France, the second most populous nation in the EU, makes up about one-seventh of the European Parliament. Therefore, the French vote on June 9th, 2024, will be crucial in determining the future composition of the European Parliament. Since far-right and eurosceptic parties are expected to win in at least nine EU member states, including France, the European Parliament may be ruled by a non-centrist coalition for the first time in its history.

The importance of european elections

Simone Veil was the first president of the European Parliament to be chosen by direct universal suffrage. France was a founder member of the European Union and played a major role in its formation alongside Germany. As 52% of French people say they are “generally favorable” to the European project, the majority of them are still committed to it now. But from the Union’s founding, the French have backed European integration with a mixed bag of feelings, grudgingly sacrificing sovereignty when they thought Europe benefited their interests. They can still accept General de Gaulle’s 1965 observation about Europe, “No matter how grand the glass offered to us from abroad, we prefer to drink from our own, while raising a toast to those around us,” as this ambiguous relationship has not changed since the start of the European adventure.

Key issues at Stake

The European elections will serve as a true litmus test for President Emmanuel Macron‘s majority, who won his first election in 2017 by promoting a favorable discourse on Europe. This is true in three ways. First, by designating 34-year-old Gabriel Attal as prime minister to bring fresh vitality and vigor to the President of the Republic’s second and last term, they will enable an evaluation to be made, at least partially, of the strategy’s applicability. Second, since this election will provide an opportunity to assess public opinion of the presidential party halfway through the term, two years after a close presidential election in which the National Rally nearly won, and almost two years ahead of the municipal election. Finally, a majority vote for parties that are Eurosceptic would be a clear rebuke to the President of the Republic, who has been intimately active in European matters.

Impact on French politics

The European elections are also a strategic litmus test for Marine Le Pen’s National Rally, which is now credited with roughly 30% of the vote intentions (versus to 18% for President Macron’s Renew party). In fact, the National Rally will be able to assess the effectiveness of its “respectability” plan, which it put into place in 2022, with this election. In order to position the National Rally as a party prepared to govern and able to unseat the established right-wing party, LR, on the political scene, this was done concurrently with the election of its 88 deputies to the National Assembly. Their mandate was to refrain from previous excesses, work constructively, and exhibit responsibility. If an alliance between the EPP, ID, and ECR as sought by Matteo Salvini materializes after the elections and removes the traditional right of the LR from the political map in domestic politics, at least temporarily, then these elections could finally place the National Rally at the center of the European political stage.

Implications for Europe

In contrast to the parliamentary election of 2022, where the electoral coalition known as the “Nupes” was obliged to come together due to a single-member majority vote, left-wing parties are anticipated to participate in the proportionally represented European election in a dispersed fashion. The Socialist Party, led by Raphael Glucksmann, is the highest-ranked party and is credited with 10% of the vote intentions. As such, the stakes in this election are more national than European. Although Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s France Insoumise (radical left) gained a prominent place inside the Nupes in 2022 due to the parliamentary elections, the ecologists and the Socialist Party regard this election as a chance to reclaim political weight within the Nupes and in the public eye. It would eliminate the LR party and legitimize the National Rally’s goal of projecting an image of a “governing party” and bringing it closer to power. In any event, after controlling politics for decades after General de Gaulle, the LR party is starting to lose ground.

Conclusion

In conclusion, The results of the elections may tip the balance in favor of the Socialist Party, which has been reduced to near obscurity since its candidate Benoît Hamon was soundly defeated in the 2017 presidential contest. They may also validate the public’s growing disapproval of France Insoumise. This election will serve as a barometer for the presidential majority about the efficacy of the current approach, and should the results prove to be unfavorable, they may trigger a new political direction and change of government.