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Friday Briefing: What to Watch in the French Elections

Emmanuel Macron, the president of France, shocked his country when he dissolved parliament and called for early elections after his party was defeated by the far right in the European elections. Voters will go to the polls on Sunday for the first round of voting as French politics reels.

For more insight, my colleague Daniel Slotnik spoke with Roger Cohen, head of The Times’ Paris bureau.

What’s at stake?

Roger: Well, President Macron has taken a huge gamble. The immediate possibility is that the far-right National Rally could win a majority, or even an absolute majority, in the national parliament. That would mean the end of a post-war absolute taboo in France against the far right gaining the highest government positions.

Why would Macron call this vote after suffering a heavy defeat in the EU parliamentary elections?

Some think that he assumes that if Rassemblement National comes to government now, the party will be discredited in the 2027 presidential elections. It is much more difficult to govern the party than to fulminate out of power.

Do you think this is a good strategy?

No. I think it’s unnecessary, first of all. Secondly, it’s an extremely high risk. Thirdly, the Olympics are less than three weeks away and all eyes will be on France. Fourthly, it increases the possibility of violence in the streets, of protests, of chaos if the far right wins. So the fifth question is, is the president really ready for France to paint a picture of chaos when the Olympics start?

Now none of that can happen. But was it wise? Was it wise? Was it rational? I don’t really think it was.

What do the French think about this?

The general atmosphere here is one of dismay, bewilderment and tension, which is now mostly present under the surface. There is fear of violent demonstrations if the far right wins a major victory.

What do you think is likely to happen?

I think the most likely outcome is a National Rally win — with perhaps a 20 percent chance of them winning an outright majority. But it is more likely that they are simply the largest party by far. Macron will then have to deal with a parliament dominated by National Rally, with a large presence of the far left, and with his party and its relative power in parliament much smaller.

For more information about the French elections:


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Biden will try to make abortion and the future of democracy a priority. His team wants to push voters away from seeing 2024 as a vote on Biden’s leadership and toward the idea that a second Trump term would be more radical and vengeful than the first.

Trump is keen to attack Biden’s record and his age (Biden is 81 and Trump is 78). Expect Trump to focus on immigration and inflation. He currently leads Biden by three percentage points, according to a Times/Siena College poll.


Iran is holding a special election today to replace President Ebrahim Raisi, who was assassinated last month. Voters have shown little enthusiasm for any of the six candidates.

In the past, some Iranians boycotted elections to express their frustration with the government. Even those who said they would vote in these elections had little confidence that their lives would change for the better.

“We have gone backwards and we are crying inside,” said a 53-year-old engineer.

Weapons: For the first time, some members of Iran’s ruling elite have emphasized that the nuclear program is for peaceful purposes and are speaking openly about building the bomb.

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Today is my last day writing the morning briefing for Asia Pacific. On Monday I will join our International desk to report on the latest news from London.

Writing this newsletter was a great honor and a wonderful challenge. I have learned so much from my colleagues and from you, our loyal readers. I am grateful for your insightful, suggestive emails. Thank you all for giving us a few minutes of your day, and thank you for being involved in our work. I know you will be in good hands as you move forward.

Contact us for suggestions, story ideas or even recommendations for London. My email address is amelia.nierenberg@nytimes.com.

Thank you for your trust and your readership.


Daniel E. Slotnik contributed to the reporting.

That’s it for today. Have a nice weekend and a nice rest of the year! – Amelia

You can reach our team at briefing@nytimes.com.

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