French President Emmanuel Macron has called a snap election after his party suffered calamitous results in EU elections – while in Belgium, poor general election results have led to its prime minister pledging his resignation.

Marine Le Pen’s hard right National Rally party won about 32% of the European Parliament vote in France – a 10 point increase on the last election in 2019.

It is more than double the less than 15% taken by Mr Macron’s centrist, pro-European Renaissance party, according to exit polls.

Mr Macron said he could not “pretend nothing had happened” and admitted the EU election was “no good” for his government.

The “rise of nationalists” is a danger to France and to Europe, he said.

Mr Macron is a “weakened president” said Jordan Bardella, National Rally’s lead candidate.

Across the border in Belgium, Alexander De Croo’s liberal party took less than 7% of the vote in the general election.

“This is a very difficult evening for us – we have lost,” Mr De Croo said.

“From tomorrow I will be the outgoing prime minister. But we liberals are strong, and we will be back.”

Mr Macron said France ‘needs a clear majority’ as he announced the snap election. Pic: Reuters

Meanwhile in Germany, Olaf Scholz’s Social Democrats were also dealt a blow by voters as the scandal-hit Alternative for Germany party (AfD) leap-frogged them into second place.

Speaking at the Elysee Palace, Mr Macron said: “I’ve decided to give you back the choice of our parliamentary future through the vote.

“I am therefore dissolving the National Assembly.”

There will be two rounds of voting on 30 June and 7 July, he added.

“I have heard your message, your concerns, and I will not leave them unanswered,” Mr Macron said.

“France needs a clear majority in order to act with serenity and harmony.”

Jordan Bardella, National Rally's lead candidate. Pic: AP
Jordan Bardella, National Rally’s lead candidate. Pic: AP

Ms Le Pen said her party was “ready to take over power if the French give us their trust in the upcoming national elections”.

She added: “We are ready to put the country back on its feet. We are ready to defend the interests of the French people. We are ready to put an end to mass immigration.”

Mr Macron appears to be “playing poker” and is taking “huge risks with the political future of his country”, French political scientist Dominique Moïsi told Sky News.

The French president’s decision was a “total surprise”, Mr Moïsi added.

“Nobody was expecting in France that the president would choose to dissolve the parliament a few weeks before the Olympic Games in France [and] a few days after the commemoration of D-Day on the Normandy beaches.”

Donald Tusk, the prime minister of Poland, said Mr Macron had “no choice” about dissolving parliament.

“This is a lesson for us,” he added.

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Marine Le Pen and Jordan Bardella at National Rally meeting. Pic: Reuters
Marine Le Pen and Jordan Bardella at National Rally meeting. Pic: Reuters

A similar move to the right is underway in Germany, too, the EU’s most populous nation.

AfD, its top candidate hounded by scandal after telling Italian newspaper La Repubblica that the SS, the Nazis’ main paramilitary force, were “not all criminals”, swept past the struggling Social Democrats, and into second place with 16.5% of the vote – up from 11% in 2019.

Mr Scholz’s long-standing Social Democrats now sit third after the vote and AfD’s gains appear to have come from young people in particular.

Co-leader Alice Weidel said her party had done well because “people have become more anti-European”.

She added: “People are annoyed by so much bureaucracy from Brussels.”

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The centre-right Christian Democratic bloc of EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen dominated in Germany with almost 30%.

In Italy, Brothers of Italy, the party of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, strengthened their hand and won between 26-30% of the vote, state broadcaster RAI said, with the centre-left PD party on 21-25%.

It appears to have been a disappointing election for green parties.

In Germany, they are predicted to fall from 20% to 12%, while further losses are expected in France and several other EU nations.

Some 373 million Europeans across all 27 EU countries were eligible to vote – and they have elected 720 representatives.

Overall, the liberal and socialist parties retained their majority in the 720-seat parliament but the vote raised serious questions about how the European Union’s major powers can continue to drive policy.

Members take their seats in mid-July.