Will political turmoil in France affect Paris Olympics?

On Sunday, French President Emmanuel Macron dissolved the National Assembly and called for snap legislative elections following an exit poll indicating that his Renaissance party might lose to the far-right opposition in the parliamentary elections. This decision comes just weeks before the Paris Olympics and has left the city’s mayor "stunned".

Political turmoil in France won't affect Paris Games, IOC head Paris 2024 says

Macron’s Announcement

President Macron announced the dissolution of the National Assembly after his party faced a significant defeat in the European Parliament elections. In a national address from the Elysee presidential palace, Macron stated, “I’ve decided to give you back the choice of our parliamentary future through the vote. I am therefore dissolving the National Assembly.”

The elections are scheduled for two rounds on June 30 and July 7, just under three weeks before the Paris Olympics commence on July 26. This decision followed the victory of the far-right National Rally (RN) party, led by Marine Le Pen, over Macron’s pro-European centrists, raising concerns about potential instability affecting the preparations for the 2024 Paris Olympics.


How Has the IOC Reacted?

Despite the political upheaval, International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach and Paris 2024 organisers assured that preparations for the Olympics would remain unaffected. During a run-up event in Paris, Bach remarked, “France is used to holding elections, they will do it one more time, there will be a new government and everyone will support the Olympics.”

He emphasized the continued unity among French political leaders in supporting the Games, stating, “I have no indication whatsoever that this unity will break now only a couple of days before the Games open.”


Officials’ Reactions in Paris

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo expressed her concerns, describing Macron’s decision as “extremely unsettling.” She added, “Like a lot of people, I was stunned to hear the president decide to do a dissolution (of parliament).” Hidalgo criticized the timing of the decision, calling it “one more blow,” despite acknowledging the need for change following the disappointing European Parliament election results.

Paris 2024 chief Tony Estanguet reassured that his team is “more determined than ever” to ensure the success of the Games. He noted, “There were around 10 elections since we launched the candidacy for the Olympics and we understood how to work with the public actors.” The Paris 2024 organisers issued a statement asserting their readiness to deliver the Games after seven years of preparation, saying, “With just a few weeks to go before the Games, we have entered a highly operational phase. All the major decisions have been taken a long time ago.”

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo

Addressing Security Concerns

The upcoming elections have raised questions about the government in place during the Olympics, especially with key ministries like transport and interior playing crucial roles in the event’s security and logistics. The two-stage election will also mobilize hundreds of thousands of security forces, further straining resources.

Jean-Loup Chappelet, an Olympics expert at the University of Lausanne, downplayed the potential impact of cabinet changes and told AFP, “Nothing will change between now and 8 July in the preparations of the Games and afterwards it will be absolutely too late to change anything.”

However, David Roizen from the Jean Jaures Foundation warned that the political turmoil could shift the focus from the positive aspects of the Games to security concerns. “It risks ending the positive dynamic, meaning that people only talk about the Olympics from a security perspective,” he told AFP.

The Paris Olympics are set to feature an unprecedented open-air ceremony on the river Seine, with organisers promising "iconic" Games against the historic backdrop of Paris. Yet, worries persist over security arrangements for the opening ceremony, the cleanliness of the river Seine for open-water swimming events, and potential strike threats from trade unions.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo

Constitutional Context

Article 12 of the French constitution allows the president to dissolve the National Assembly to resolve political crises, such as irreconcilable differences between parliament and the executive. Following this provision, the elections will be held within 20 to 40 days after the assembly’s dissolution, making the first round on June 30 and the second on July 7. This period is crucial as Paris gears up to host the Olympic Games at the end of July.

While the snap elections introduce a layer of uncertainty, the robust preparations and unwavering support from key stakeholders suggest that France is well-equipped to handle both the political and logistical challenges ahead.

With inputs from agencies

Image Source: Multiple agencies

© Copyright 2024. All Rights Reserved Powered by Vygr Media.