Opinion| Will the US and French Elections Redraw Putin’s Power Map?

Marwa El- Shinawy
7 Min Read

The spotlight is currently on the US presidential elections, where Biden and Trump are fiercely competing for victory. While there is anticipation that Trump’s success could potentially ease tensions with President Putin due to their recent political reconciliation, there is another pivotal election happening that holds equal importance in shaping the delicate global landscape amidst the Russian-Ukrainian conflict. These are the early French parliamentary elections, which have been called for by Macron, a decision that many French political analysts consider to be a daring move, even labelling it as a “gamble.” Considering France’s influential position in the European Union, its seat on the UN Security Council, and its significant military capabilities as a global power, these elections carry almost as much global significance as the highly anticipated Biden vs. Trump showdown in November.

 

It is indeed a fact that these elections are parliamentary. Even if a new prime minister assumes office, Macron will continue to serve as the president until 2027. However, it is crucial to highlight that the French system is merely presidential in name. The true source of constitutional power lies predominantly within the Parliament, the Prime Minister, and the Cabinet. If they align with a political movement distinct from the president, they hold the authority to make decisions.

 

These elections hold significant importance due to the potential outcome of a victory for the far-right National Rally Party. Established by Jean-Marie Le Pen in 1972, the party was later led by Marine Le Pen and is currently represented by Jordan Bardella. The party’s political agenda includes halting non-European immigration, promoting traditional values, supporting local producers, and advocating for France’s independence from the European Union and other international organizations.

 

The party’s leader, Marine Le Pen, has consistently highlighted this political agenda in her speeches throughout her presidential campaign against Macron. This party is determined to undermine the European Union by implementing policies that favour French citizens over foreign residents. Marine Le Pen has also made it clear that she wants France to withdraw from the military arm of NATO, which she views as a tool of American dominance.

 

Most importantly, Marine Le Pen’s stance on Russia and the Ukrainian conflict is resolute and clear. During a speech in 2023, she emphasized that the primary concern for her, if she were to lead France, would be the country’s best interests. She pledged to do everything within her capacity to work towards a peaceful resolution to the conflict, as she sees no other viable alternatives. Le Pen expressed her apprehension that a victory for either Russia or Ukraine would have dire consequences, potentially leading to a larger conflict. She voiced her opposition to the continued supply of weapons to Ukraine, believing it perpetuates the war rather than seeking a peaceful negotiation. Le Pen also criticized Emmanuel Macron’s policies, attributing the ongoing conflict to political errors. Similarly, Bardella, a candidate for Prime Minister, affirmed his party’s support for Kyiv while emphasizing the importance of setting clear boundaries to prevent further escalation with Moscow.

 

Many critics of the party argue that its pro-Putin stance is a result of financial support from Russia, citing a significant loan from a Russian bank and another from a bank associated with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, a Putin ally. Nevertheless, the party’s efforts to prioritize French interests, seek a peaceful resolution to the Ukraine conflict, and halt financial aid draining the French economy align well with the sentiments of the French populace. Numerous media reports have highlighted French citizens questioning the allocation of billions of euros to Kyiv with no tangible results, ongoing conflict, loss of lives, and wastage of taxpayers’ money.

 

Opinion polls substantiate this trend within the French population, with a survey released on 21 June 2024, revealing a substantial level of support for the far-right National Rally party, headed by Marine Le Pen, leading up to the French legislative elections, as reported by Bloomberg News Agency. Another poll also indicated a decrease in President Emmanuel Macron’s approval rating. A survey conducted by the Ifop Fiducial Foundation for Sud Radio showed that 38% of participants are in favour of the National Rally emerging victorious.

 

Undoubtedly, Macron’s decision to call for early elections following a devastating loss to the far-right National Rally party in the European parliamentary elections can be seen as a risky gamble. Macron’s confidence in the French voters and “their ability to make informed decisions for themselves and future generations led him to make this choice”, as he put it. However, the fact that Macron’s popularity is at an all-time low demonstrates that his understanding of the French people’s opinions and trends is far from accurate.

 

Marine Le Pen, the leader of the National Rally party, may not secure victory in the upcoming two-round parliamentary elections scheduled for 30  June and 7 July. Her second candidate for prime minister, Jordan Bardella, might not assume the role of prime minister. However, one can speculate on the potential implications if Trump were to win in the United States, considering his relationship with Putin, and if the National Rally Party were to triumph in the French Parliament. Such a scenario would undoubtedly be advantageous for Russia. The desire for peace, stability, and cost-effectiveness is shared by the American people and all European nations. Unfortunately, this seems to be overlooked by both Macron and Biden. Consequently, Putin may emerge as the primary beneficiary of Macron’s hasty decision to call for early elections.

 

Dr Marwa El-Shinawy – Academic and Writer

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