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Emmanuel Macron gambles on snap French election after Marine Le Pen victory in EU vote

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Emmanuel Macron gambles on snap French election after Marine Le Pen victory in EU vote

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President Emmanuel Macron stunned France on Sunday when he called snap parliamentary elections after his centrist alliance was trounced by Marine Le Pen’s far-right movement in a European parliamentary vote.

Exit polls showed the Rassemblement National (RN) secured 31.5 per cent of the vote compared with 14.5 per cent for the French president’s centrist alliance, a stinging blow to Macron. He appeared to have only narrowly avoided a humiliating third place behind the centre-left, which took 14 per cent of the vote.

“For me, who always considers that a united, strong, independent Europe is good for France, this is a situation which I cannot countenance,” he said. “I have decided to give you back the choice of our parliamentary future with a vote.”

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The first round of the parliamentary elections will be held in just three weeks, on June 30, with a run-off on July 7.

The dissolution is an extraordinary gamble by the French leader who has already lost his parliamentary majority after winning a second term as president two years ago. His alliance could be crushed, which would force him to appoint a prime minister from another party, such as the centre-right Les Republicains or even the far-right RN, in an arrangement known as a “cohabitation”.

In such a scenario, Macron would be left with little power over domestic affairs with three years left as president.

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Macron said he believed a vote was needed to calm the volatile debates in the French parliament and achieve clarity on the direction of the country. Elysée officials said he had been considering it for some time to address gridlock in parliament.

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François Bayrou, a centrist politician whose party is in alliance with Macron, said the president was aiming to “end the impasse” in politics by asking voters a simple question of “whether France really recognises itself in the proposals of the far-right”.

Le Pen celebrated the victory and hailed Macron’s response to it. “This shows that when the people vote, the people win,” she said in a victory speech. “I can only salute the president’s decision to call early elections . . . We are ready to exercise power if the French give us their backing.”

RN has 88 seats out of 577 in the National Assembly, making it the biggest opposition party. Macron’s centrist alliance has 249, so has had to cut deals with other parties to further his agenda.

There have been three previous political cohabitations in France — where a president has to share power with a prime minister and government from an opposing party — since the Fifth Republic was founded in 1958.

Alain Duhamel, a veteran political analyst, predicted: “A dissolution means a cohabitation.”

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Rassemblement National leader Marine Le Pen and the party’s lead candidate in the European elections Jordan Bardella
Rassemblement National leader Marine Le Pen, left, and the party’s lead candidate in the European elections Jordan Bardella prepare to address supporters on Sunday © Reuters

In addition to the RN’s big win in Sunday’s European elections, another far-right party, Reconquête, was estimated to have won 5.3 per cent of the vote.

The margin of victory could lend huge momentum to Le Pen’s ambition to succeed Macron as president in 2027. The decision to call snap elections was presented by people close to the president as a high-stakes attempt to thwart her advance.

“This is a severe defeat for Macron given that he has been president for seven years and he has long said his goal is to combat the far-right,” said Bruno Cautrès, an academic and pollster at Sciences Po in Paris. 

The loss came after Macron had argued that the future of the EU was at stake because of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, economic competition with the US and China, as well as the need to fight climate change — all topics on which he said the far-right could not be trusted.

Yet the message did not move French voters, who have historically used European elections as protest votes against the incumbent president.

“Given that Emmanuel Macron has sought to position himself as the intellectual leader of Europe, the fact that French voters don’t follow him is problematic for him,” added Cautrès. 

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Voting estimates showed the RN’s list, led by the charismatic 28-year-old party chief Jordan Bardella, had won almost as many votes as the combined total of Macron’s alliance, led by a little-known MEP Valerie Hayer, and the traditional parties of the centre-right and centre-left.

“In according more than 30 per cent of their votes to us, the French have delivered their verdict and marked the determination of our country to change the direction of the EU,” said Bardella in a speech from his campaign headquarters. “This is only the beginning.”

The results show the rising popularity of the RN since 2019 when they won 23.3 per cent of the vote in the last European elections, coming in only slightly ahead of Macron’s list which took 22.4 per cent.

Additional reporting by Adrienne Klasa

How will the European parliamentary elections change the EU? Join Ben Hall, Europe editor, and colleagues in Paris, Rome, Brussels and Germany for a subscriber webinar on June 12. Register now and put your questions to our panel at ft.com/euwebinar

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Opinion: Extreme heat kills. What the US can do to protect the most vulnerable | CNN

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Opinion: Extreme heat kills. What the US can do to protect the most vulnerable | CNN

Editor’s Note: Mark Wolfe is an energy economist and serves as the executive director of the National Energy Assistance Directors Association, representing the state directors of the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program and co-director of the Center on Climate, Energy and Poverty. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own. View more opinion on CNN.



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 — 

Summer starts Thursday, and record-breaking temperatures are already cascading across the United States. Triple-digit temperatures have hit the western states, with the Northeast, Midwest and Great Lakes regions expected to see extreme heat waves this week.

Current US strategies for keeping families cool, including access to cooling centers — temporary shelters during heat waves — may have worked when temperatures were lower and the duration of heat waves was shorter, but in today’s climate, these outdated cooling methods are inadequate.

Weather-related deaths from extreme heat are more common than from those from hurricanes, floods, extreme cold and other natural disasters. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 1,220 people die from extreme heat every year. And some experts think that these numbers understate the full extent of the problem because of a lack of consistent methods to record these deaths.

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We need a full paradigm shift in policy to deploy the right solutions to the people who need them most.

The cost of home cooling has been rising steadily for the last 10 years, in part because families need to purchase more electricity to cool their homes as temperatures continue to rise. The National Energy Assistance Directors Association (NEADA) and the Center for Energy Poverty and Climate project that the financial burden to families of keeping cool this summer will increase by 7.9% across the United States to an average of $719 from June through September. That’s up from $661 during the same period last year.

Low-income families will be at greatest risk of falling behind on their utility bills this summer, and therefore of facing utility shutoffs and suffering dangerous health effects of extreme heat exposure.

The average energy burden for low-income households is about 8.6% of income, three times the rate for non-low-income households (3%). And according to the US Energy Information Administration, almost 20% of low-income families making less than $20,000 per year reported having no air-conditioning equipment in 2020. Increasing access to adequate cooling throughout the summer months for these families is imperative.

As of now, only 17 states and Washington, DC have protections against utility shutoffs during the summer, and many of those protections are limited in scope to periods of extreme temperatures.

To make matters worse, funding for the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which provides formula grants to states to help struggling households pay their energy bills, has been reduced from $6.1 billion in fiscal year 2023 to $4.1 billion for fiscal year 2024, leaving states with few options other than reducing assistance.

Congress must restore the $2 billion that was cut from LIHEAP back to the program this year. But, given that’s not likely, utilities across the United States should agree to voluntarily suspend power shutoffs during the summer.

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They should also add bill payment assistance programs that provide a set of tiered discounts that reflect households’ abilities to pay. Several states have already implemented different levels of utility discounts with successful outcomes, including Connecticut, which just put into effect a program providing a discount on monthly electric utility bills of up to 50% for low-income families.

Long term, we need to invest in solutions that we know work and are cost-effective. Federal programs, like the longstanding Weatherization Assistance Program and the more recently passed Home Electrification and Appliance Rebates program, can lead the way to helping low-income families stay safe in their homes during both the winter heating and summer cooling seasons. But they must be adequately funded to reach their full potential.

During periods of extreme heat, cooling is not just a luxury that provides comfort, but a necessary measure that helps families across all income brackets, and especially low-income families, stay safe.

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French businesses court Marine Le Pen after taking fright at left’s policies

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French businesses court Marine Le Pen after taking fright at left’s policies

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France’s corporate bosses are racing to build contacts with Marine Le Pen’s far right after recoiling from the radical tax-and-spend agenda of the rival leftwing alliance in the country’s snap parliamentary elections.

Four senior executives and bankers told the Financial Times that the left — which polls suggest is the strongest bloc vying with Le Pen — would be even worse for business than the Rassemblement National’s unfunded tax cuts and anti-immigration policies.

“The RN’s economic policies are more of a blank slate that business thinks they can help push in the right direction,” a Cac 40 corporate leader said of Le Pen’s party, which is ahead of other groupings in the run-up to the two-round vote on June 30 and July 7. “The left is not likely to water down its hardline anti-capitalist agenda.”

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Another major business leader and investor in France added: “If you had told me two weeks ago that the business world would be rooting for the RN and counting [President Emmanuel] Macron out, I would not have believed it.”

Both spoke anonymously out of fear of commenting publicly on politics during the lightning legislative election campaign triggered by Macron after his centrist alliance was crushed in European parliament elections by the RN. 

Le Pen’s lieutenant Jordan Bardella, who is expected to be prime minister if the RN wins an outright majority, had already begun to woo business leaders in closed-door meetings in recent months, said investment bankers in Paris and executives.

Jean-Philippe Tanguy, an RN MP who works on economic policy, said he had been getting calls from lobbyists, investors and companies eager to understand the party’s plans. 

“We’ve told them that the RN will hold the line on deficits and present a credible plan,” he said. “The markets will be severe on us, so we really have no choice but to do so.” 

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Markets responded to the political uncertainty by sending the blue-chip Cac 40 index down more than 5 per cent between the announcement of the elections just over a week ago and Monday’s close.

The spread between benchmark French and German bond yields — a market barometer for the risk of holding France’s debt — has risen 0.31 percentage points since the election was called in the sharpest weekly move since the Eurozone debt crisis in 2011.

Another high-level executive said the prospect of either far-right or leftwing parties setting France’s economic strategy was “a choice between the plague and cholera”.

Both the far right and the leftwing New Popular Front (NFP) alliance want a radical break with Macron’s business-friendly economic policies. 

The president has cut production taxes on corporations, made it easier for companies to fire workers and wooed foreign companies, including JPMorgan Chase, Pfizer and Amazon, to invest in France. Unemployment has fallen and recession has not set in as elsewhere in Europe.

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But his government has also hugely expanded public borrowing during the Covid-19 pandemic and the energy shock linked to the war in Ukraine.

Skyline of La Défense financial district in Paris
The financial district of La Défense in Paris. Le Pen has sought to reassure business, claiming that markets find the party’s project ‘reasonable’ when they read the details © Emmanuel Dunand/AFP via Getty Images

The RN, which has not issued a full economic programme, has signalled it could revoke Macron’s flagship pensions reform later in the year after an audit of public accounts. It has made this a key campaign promise.

The party has said it will keep its promises to cut value added tax on energy and fuel, which the government says will cost €16bn. But in a sign of the far-right’s attempts to reassure voters and the markets, Bardella on Monday night postponed a €7bn VAT cut on household necessities. The RN also says it would give French companies preference in procurement, a violation of EU competition rules.

Le Pen has sought to reassure business. “Financial markets don’t really understand the National Rally’s project,” she told Le Figaro on Sunday. “They have only heard the caricature of our project. When they read about it, they find it rather reasonable.”

The leftwing NFP alliance has not made similar overtures. But it depicts its economic plans as more responsible because of billions of euros in planned tax rises to pay for the increased spending. 

“We will finance this programme by dipping into the pockets of those who can most afford it,” said Olivier Faure, head of the Socialist party.

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The NFP’s programme includes scrapping Macron’s pension reforms, increasing public sector salaries and welfare benefits, while raising the minimum wage by 14 per cent and freezing the price of basic food items and energy.

It would reintroduce a wealth tax, scrap many tax breaks for the better-off and raise income tax for the highest earners. 

Corporate bosses recoil at such ideas. “The left’s economic programme is totally unacceptable and would amount to France leaving the capitalist system,” said a high-profile entrepreneur anguished over the choice in the election. “Bardella may look reassuring but the far right represents a threat to democracy, not only the economy.”

Others are more sanguine. Matthieu Pigasse, an investment banker at Centerview who specialises in sovereign debt advisory, said the French economy was “protected by the euro” and the EU itself, even if the Eurosceptic RN has long criticised them.

“In a historical irony, the euro will immunise [the economic impact] from the left or the far-right,” he told L’Express magazine.

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Additional reporting Ben Hall in Paris

Video: Why the far right is surging in Europe | FT Film
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The federal government puts warnings on tobacco and alcohol. Is social media next? : Consider This from NPR

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The federal government puts warnings on tobacco and alcohol. Is social media next? : Consider This from NPR

Social media platforms are part of what the U.S. Surgeon General is calling a youth mental health crisis.

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Social media platforms are part of what the U.S. Surgeon General is calling a youth mental health crisis.

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Emma Lembke was only 12 years old when many of her friends started using phones and social media.

“Each one of them, as a result, was getting pulled away from kind of conversation with me, from hanging out with me, from even, like, playing on the playground, hanging out outside at school. It felt as though my interactions were dwindling,” Lembke told NPR.

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It wasn’t just her experience. On average, teens in the U.S. are spending nearly 5 hours on social media every single day.

You’re reading the Consider This newsletter, which unpacks one major news story each day. Subscribe here to get it delivered to your inbox, and listen to more from the Consider This podcast.

And the children and adolescents who are spending these hours on social media seem to be paying the price.

Those who spend more than 3 hours a day on social media have double the risk of mental health problems like depression and anxiety.

Clinical psychologist Lisa Damour, who specializes in adolescent anxiety says the more time a teen spends on their phone, the less likely they are to be focusing on other aspects of their life.

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“Too much time on social media gets in the way of things that we know are good for kids, like getting a lot of sleep, spending time with people and interacting face to face, being physically active, focusing on their schoolwork in a meaningful way,” Damour told NPR. “So that’s one place that we worry about that they are missing out on things that are good for overall growth.”

The Surgeon General’s call to action.

Vivek Murthy, U.S. Surgeon General, has called attention to what he has called the “youth mental health crisis” that is currently happening in the U.S.

This week, he published an op-ed in the New York Times calling for social media warning labels like those put on cigarettes and alcohol, in order to warn young people of the danger social media poses to their mental wellbeing and development. He cites the success of the tobacco and alcohol labels that have discouraged consumption.

“The data we have from that experience, particularly from tobacco labels, shows us that these can actually be effective in increasing awareness and in changing behavior. But they need to be coupled with the real changes, [like] the platforms themselves,” Murthy said in conversation with Consider This host Mary Louise Kelly.

“Right now, young people are being exposed to serious harms online, to violence and sexual content, to bullying and harassment, and to features that would seek to manipulate their developing brains into excessive use.”

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Part of Murthy’s guidance includes keeping children off of social media platforms until their critical thinking skills have had more time to grow and strengthen against what the algorithms might be showing them.

“Imagine pitting a young person, an adolescent, a teenager against the best product engineers in the world who are using the most cutting edge of brain science to figure out how to maximize the time you spend on a platform. That is the definition of an unfair fight, and it’s what our kids are up against today.”

New guidelines moving forward.

Damour says that the Surgeon General’s call for a label is a great start to addressing the larger issue of how phone addictions are affecting young people.

“The other thing that is really important about the Surgeon General’s recommendation is that he’s calling for legislation. He’s calling for congressional action to get in there and help with regulating what kids can be exposed to, she said. “And I think this is huge right now. This is entirely in the laps of parents, and they are left holding the bag on something that really should be managed at a legal congressional level.”

Both Murthy and Damour say that raising awareness of certain strategies for parents can also help teenagers maintain more balanced lives.

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This can include:

  • Waiting until after middle school to let kids get social media profiles.
  • Using text messages as an intermediary step in allowing teens to keep in touch with their peers.
  • And maintaining “phone free zones” around bedtime, meals, and social gathering.

This episode was produced by Marc Rivers, Kathryn Fink and Karen Zamora, with additional reporting from Michaeleen Doucleff. It was edited by Courtney Dorning and Justine Kenin. Our executive producer is Sami Yenigun.

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