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Results come in from European parliament elections

SCOTT DETROW, HOST:

In a shock move, French President Emmanuel Macron has dissolved the French Parliament and called for new legislative elections in France after his party was trounced by the far-right in European Parliament elections today. Far-right parties surged across Europe and will get more seats now in the European Parliament. That was expected, but no one expected this vote would cause such upheaval in one of the European Union's founding nations.

NPR's Eleanor Beardsley has been following all of this from Paris. Hey, Eleanor.

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: Hi, Scott.

DETROW: So look. The polls suggested Macron's party would not do well in the European vote. We'll talk about that in a moment. But why did he dissolve the French Parliament? And how is this being perceived?

BEARDSLEY: Oh, my gosh. It is an earthquake. No one imagined anything like this. And here's how it unfolded. At 8:00 p.m. tonight, the TV networks announced the results of the EU Parliament elections, and it showed Macron's party getting 15% of the vote and the far-right party of Marine Le Pen getting 32% of the vote. That's a massive defeat for Macron and his vision for Europe and France. And Macron very shortly after spoke on television, and he said he could not ignore those results. And here he is.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT EMMANUEL MACRON: (Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: And he said, the far-right has a totally different isolationist vision for Europe and France that's bad for our nation, he said. But I want you to decide what you want for your future, and I'm going to give you the vote. I dissolve the Parliament tonight.

DETROW: I mean, this is such an interesting move. Especially your party loses by such a large margin that that in a moment of weakness, you call for this vote, and he does it immediately, you know, as the votes are being counted. How could this change things?

BEARDSLEY: Well, absolutely. Everyone is still debating why he did it. He's been called a pyromaniac on TV, you know. But clearly, Macron is hoping that a lot of French people were also scared by the turnout of the far-right, and they'll turn out massively to vote for him in this parliamentary election. But it's a risk because the French political scene is fragmented. The far-right is doing well right now, and they could do well in these French elections.

I spoke with Douglas Webber, who is a political science professor at INSEAD business school in France, and here's what he said about Macron's move.

DOUGLAS WEBBER: This might be a calculated gamble. It seems to me to be a reckless gamble because a great deal would change if there should be a change in government in France.

BEARDSLEY: You know, he says, this is so much bigger, if the right gets in France, than any small gains they would have made in the European Parliament. But, you know, Scott, all of this is still unfolding. And we're in a state of shock here in France.

DETROW: Yeah. In the meantime, what do we know about the rest of Europe and these elections?

BEARDSLEY: Right. Well, it was not a complete victory for the far-right. It did not meet expectations in the Netherlands and Belgium. And, you know, importantly, extreme right-wing parties remain divided. So it's unlikely they'll come together to form, you know, to form a big, massive coalition. You know, some are for abortion. Some are against abortion. There are a lot of splits within the right. And it looks like the main centrist parties in the EU Parliament are set to maintain a clear majority. It'll be slightly reduced. And a rightward shift in the Parliament will mean it will be more challenging to pass legislation dealing with climate change, migration and help to Ukraine, things like that.

DETROW: Well, NPR's Eleanor Beardsley, now you have an election to cover. It's fine. This was a low-key summer for you. There's no Olympics or anything for France.

BEARDSLEY: Yeah, exactly. I thought I was going to get a couple of weeks off.

DETROW: All right. Well, thanks for joining us with this story. Talk soon.

BEARDSLEY: Talk soon. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Scott Detrow is a White House correspondent for NPR and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast.
Eleanor Beardsley began reporting from France for NPR in 2004 as a freelance journalist, following all aspects of French society, politics, economics, culture and gastronomy. Since then, she has steadily worked her way to becoming an integral part of the NPR Europe reporting team.
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