Macron and Le Pen to face each other in presidential run-off
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On Sunday, Mr Macron won the first round of the presidential elections to square off with long-time rival Marine Le Pen for the second time in the final round on April 24. The incumbent president’s victory was convincing, but some projections say the run-off vote will be a nail-biter for Mr Macron.
An Ifop-Fiducial poll for the second round results has forecast Mr Macron clinching 51 percent of the vote, only just pulling ahead of Ms Le Pen’s 49 percent.
But the prospect of pro-European Macron being ousted by historically Eurosceptic and right-wing Ms Le Pen is one many Europeans will dread.
German MEP Reinhard Bütikofe was categorical in stating that the EU is “not prepared for a Le Pen victory”.
The RN leader taking the French presidency, he said, could spark a “meltdown of the EU”.
He warned: “Without a France that wants to take the EU forward, it cannot function.”
German MEP Markus Ferber agreed, adding: “In view of the geopolitical situation, the EU cannot afford another internal crisis.”
Some have warned that those who backed Éric Zemmour could transfer their votes to the National Rally, meaning Ms Le Pen could pip Mr Macron to the post.
And this could only be heightened if those who backed left-wing populist Jean-Luc Mélenchon in the first round defected to Ms Le Pen’s camp.
Mr Mélenchon warned his supporters: “You must not give a single vote to Marine Le Pen.”
Although a number of MEPs were not shocked by the first-round results, German MEP Markus Ferber said the result “paints a picture of a deeply divided country”.
In terms of the populist vote, he added: “That more than 50 percent of voters cast their ballots for a left- or right-wing populist candidate can only be described as shocking.”
Some MEPs lay the blame for Ms Le Pen’s strength at Mr Macron’s door.
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Fellow German MEP Peter Liese denounced Mr Macron’s focus on the crisis in Ukraine, which distracted him from his domestic re-election campaign as Ms Le Pen fostered support within French borders.
He said Mr Macron “obviously thought that he alone could win the election as an international crisis manager”.
Mr Ferber said the president must show more commitment to domestic policies which impact the lives of voters in order to beat Ms Le Pen.
He said: “Le Pen has skilfully addressed issues such as the high cost of living in recent weeks.
“Macron has so far lacked credible answers to them.
“He must now very quickly develop a concept with which he can convince the French that he is more than the candidate of the elites.”
Addressing his pre-occupation with Ukraine, he added: “No one would understand if I wasn’t there to protect the French.”
With his energy diverted by the Ukraine crisis, he is seen as having ignored a number of the pressing domestic social issues which could sway voters another way.
Mr Macron, who has been slapped with the label of “president of the rich” by some, said in a jab at the National Rally: “I take full responsibility for having spoken to the president of Russia, in the name of France.
“I was never naive, unlike others. I was never complicit, unlike others.”
Martin Koopmann, executive director of the Genshagen Foundation, a Franco-German-Polish think tank, said the run-off result would not just shape the next five years of French politics, but would define Europe’s future.
He said: “Nothing less than the survival of European integration would be at stake.”
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