Macron’s ally launches scathing attack on Marine Le Pen
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French leader Emmanuel Macron and challenger Marine Le Pen qualified on Sunday for what promises to be a very tightly fought presidential election runoff on April 24, pitting a pro-European economic liberal against a far-right nationalist. With partial results putting Mr Macron in first place ahead of Ms Le Pen after the first-round voting, other major candidates admitted defeat. Except for another far-right candidate, Eric Zemmour, they all urged voters to block the far-right in the second round.
But after five years in power in which his abrasive style has upset many, while Le Pen succeeded in softening her image, Mr Macron will have to fight hard to win back disgruntled voters.
According to experts, Sunday’s result shows the incumbent President has failed to win over more voters since 2017, contributing to the strengthening of both the far-right factions of the country and the far-left enthusiasts.
ING Economics pointed to two major risks for Mr Macron ahead of the second round of the election.
With 30 percent of the combined votes for Eric Zemmour and Marine Le Pen, the far-right has never been so powerful in France.
Ms Le Pen’s strategy is also very different from the one she proposed back in 2017, showing herself as a much less extreme and more acceptable candidate.
He said: “I agree with political pundits who observe that the French political system is destructured and highly fragile.
University professor and author Dr Matthew Fraser claimed Mr Macron’s “isolated” support and a rise in far-right voters is largely his own doing.
“Macron’s centre, with 28 percent support, is isolated and flanked by powerful populist movements on the extremes: more than 30 percent of vote on far-right, about 25 percent on the far-left.
“This recomposition is largely Macron’s doing. In 2017, he shrewdly exploited the French political system’s structural weaknesses by disrupting it — launching his own movement which produced major cracks in the two main government parties, the Socialists and Républicains.
“Five years later after the first-round vote, those two longstanding government parties are decimated — wiped out, forced to rebuilt from scratch. What is left in the aftermath is Macron’s movement, isolated in the centre, surrounded by powerful electoral forces on the extremes.”
Echoing his comments, Professor of French and European politics at University College London, claimed the French President “has put himself in a very difficult position”.
He also argued that Mr Macron is largely responsible for the rise of far-right ideas.
He said: “Since 2017, Macron’s project has been to absorb the PS, the centre and LR, i.e. all government forces of centre left and centre right in ONE party. I don’t see how this could be sustainable in the long run.
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“Macron’s project has eradicated all mainstream political forces, and it sets aside a far right and a radical left which are strong but which can’t get a majority on their own. In short, it is now Macron or chaos… except that Macron is now seen as being part of the chaos.
“Let’s bear in mind that Macron, Le Pen and Melenchon’s personal scores are much higher than the actual scores of LREM, RN and LFI in past local and national elections. This discrepancy is problematic. Where will they get a majority in the house to govern?
“Macron’s has put himself in a very difficult position. He is deeply unpopular on the left and on the far right (the two other blocs), and his programme caters for the affluent categories. However he desperately needs the left votes to defeat Le Pen in two weeks time.
“Macron has another big problem: he has used the heavy tactics of the hard right to police social movements and he has unashamedly used far right rhetoric or dog-whistling on immigration and Islam. Macron is largely responsible for legitimising far right ideas.
“This is Macron’s deep contradiction: he says that he is ‘as much on the left as he is on the right’. It is untrue: he heavily leans to the right which has terribly shrunk. On the right, there is only the far right which is surviving and it hates him as much as the left.
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“If Macron does not engage left-wing voters in between the two rounds (he didn’t do it in his speech yesterday evening), he will lose to Le Pen. This time round, a lot of left-wing voters who are totally exasperated by Macron, will abstain. A minority will even vote for Le Pen.
“If Le Pen is elected, a period of deep political instability and social unrest will begin as I don’t see how she could get a majority in the house to govern.
“f an unrepentant Macron is re-elected, the situation will only be marginally better: he will be deeply unpopular from Day 1. His opponents will be divided and weak, so politics will largely transfer to the street and direct action.”
“Nothing is decided, and the battle we will wage in the next 15 days will be decisive for France and Europe,” Mr Macron told supporters, urging all voters to rally behind him on April 24th to stop the far-right from ruling the European Union’s second-largest economy.
Ifop pollsters predicted a very tight runoff, with 51 percent for Mr Macron and 49 percent for Ms Le Pen. The gap is so tight that victory either way is within the margin of error.
Other pollsters offered a slightly bigger margin in favour of Mr Macron, with up to 54 percent. But that was in any case much narrower than in 2017, when Macron beat Ms Le Pen with 66.1 percent of the votes.
Ms Le Pen, who had eaten into Mr Macron’s once-commanding 10-point poll lead in recent weeks thanks to a campaign focused on cost-of-living issues said she was the one to protect the weak and unite a nation tired of its elite.
“What will be at stake on April 24 is a choice of society, a choice of civilisation,” she told supporters, who chanted “We will win!” as she told them: “I will bring order back to France.”
Mr Macron, meanwhile, told supporters waving French and EU flags: “The only project that is credible to help purchasing power is ours.”
A Le Pen victory on April 24 would be a similar jolt to the establishment as Britain’s Brexit vote to leave the European Union (EU) or Donald Trump’s 2017 entry into the White House.
France would lurch from being a driving force for European integration to being led by a euro-sceptic who is also suspicious of the NATO military alliance.
While Ms Le Pen has ditched past ambitions for a “Frexit” or to haul France out of the euro zone’s single currency, she envisages the EU as a mere alliance of sovereign states.
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