Monday, June 24, 2019 | ePaper

Macron's ambitions face test in high-stakes EU polls

  • Print


President Emmanuel Macron will find it tricky to challenge the dominance of the conservative European People's Party and the Socialists and Democrats in the 751-seat parliament.

AFP, Paris :
President Emmanuel Macron this weekend faces a critical test of his ambitions to reform France and champion a liberal Europe in European Parliament elections where his own party risks losing to the far-right.
The latest opinion surveys show the far-right National Rally (RN) outpolling Macron's centrist Republic on the Move (LREM) by between 0.5-2 percentage points, after months where the two were neck-and-neck.
Analysts say that two years into his five-year term, the EU election represents a critical juncture for Macron and will influence whether the 41-year-old president can continue reforming in what he calls the "second act" of his time in office.
Macron has made no secret of the importance of the polls in France Sunday, telling regional newspapers this week the elections were the most important for four decades as the union faced an "existential threat".
At stake is the youthful president's vision of implementing further pro-business reforms in France, while emerging as a champion of more integration among EU member states.
Losing to Marine Le Pen's RN - formerly known as the National Front -could be a glaring blow to those ambitions.
Sources close to Macron say a bad loss could prompt a major cabinet reshuffle, with the job of Prime Minister Edouard Philippe seen as being on the line.
"Symbolically, losing European elections in his own country would be seen
as a repudiation of someone so pro-European," said Sebastien Maillard,
director of the Jacques Delors Institute think-tank.
"What is at stake for Emmanuel Macron is to have an influence in the future European parliament. This is not a given."
Macron will find it tricky to challenge the dominance of the conservative European People's Party (EPP) and the Socialists and Democrats (S&D) in the 751-seat parliament.
His European allies, grouped together in the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE), may only end up with some 100 seats.
"If you don't have a position in the European parliament then your European influence is limited," said a French presidential official.
"This is what is at stake in the elections in the face of the nationalist risk."
The elections also come at a prickly time in Macron's relations with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is due to leave office in 2021 but who the French president wanted to cultivate as an ally in reforming Europe.
Merkel is unhappy with Macron challenging the EPP which she backs, while tensions have flared over Brexit, the choice of the next EU commission chief and France's decision to increase its budget deficit.
"The European political landscape is very fractured, there is no leadership and Macron has not succeeded in imposing his," said Jean-Thomas Lesueur, political scientist at the Franco-Belgian Thomas More Institute.
After an initial burst of optimism, the "Germans became disenchanted quite quickly," he said.
The elections come with Macron still shaken after six months of sometimes
violent anti-government protests by the "yellow vest" movement which prompted
him to announce tax cuts for the working classes and a rise in the minimum
wage.
The protests have shrunk in size, but Macron's popularity ratings remain leaden with the president painfully aware his two predecessors both lasted only one term without leaving any major mark.
Sources said if the LREM falls behind the RN all eyes will be on the margin to determine the magnitude of the reaction.
"If there is nothing in it, behind or in front, I don't see a reshuffle.  But if we are three to four points behind the RN, or below 20 percent, people within the ruling party will start to ask questions," said a person close to Macron, who asked not to be named.
"And this will require a change in personnel," the source told AFP.
A minister, also speaking on condition of anonymity, added: "If we are far behind the RN then things are going to shake. There will be a big reshuffle.  I don't see how we can lose the elections" and not change the prime minister.
For Brice Teinturier from the polling institute Ipsos in France, a victory for Macron's party would give the government some "political oxygen" and capacity to allow reforms to continue.

More News For this Category

Memes, cartoons and caustic Cantonese: the language of Hong Kong's protests

Memes, cartoons and caustic Cantonese: the language of Hong Kong's protests

AFP :Viral artwork pummelling city leaders, clever word plays and Cantonese cursing that would make a sailor blush-Hong Kongers have displayed a characteristically riotous embrace of satire during their huge

Vietnam jails US national for 'state overthrow plot'

Vietnam jails US national for 'state overthrow plot'

A court in Vietnam has sentenced a US citizen to 12 years in prison after finding him guilty of attempting to "overthrow the state".Michael Phuong Minh Nguyen, 55, had admitted

Saudi women use wedding contracts to assert right to drive

Saudi women use wedding contracts to assert right to drive

AFP, Dammam :Saudi salesman Majd had just begun his wedding preparations when his fiancee sought to enshrine in their marriage contract a condition already guaranteed by law-her right to drive.Wedding

Iran denies US cyber attack ahead of new sanctions

Iran denies US cyber attack ahead of new sanctions

AFP  :Iran denied Monday it was hit by a US cyber attack as Washington was due to tighten sanctions on Tehran in a standoff sparked by the US withdrawal from

Mike Pompeo Arrives In Saudi Arabia For Iran crisis talk

AFP, Jeddah: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived Monday in Saudi Arabia for talks on coordinating with the close ally amid mounting tensions with Iran.Pompeo is expected to meet

Turkey opposition deals blow to Erdogan in Istanbul win

Turkey opposition deals blow to Erdogan in Istanbul win

AFP  :Turkey's opposition revelled Monday in a landslide win in Istanbul's re-run mayoral vote-a blow for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that even some pro-government media called a victory for democracy.Ekrem

Trump's son-in-law's economic plan for ME peace faces Arab rejection

Trump's son-in-law's economic plan for ME peace faces Arab rejection

Reuters, Riyadh :US President Donald Trump's economic vision as part of the wider plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was met with contempt, repudiation and exasperation in the Arab world,

UK's Boris Johnson under pressure to explain domestic 'row'

UK's Boris Johnson under pressure to explain domestic 'row'

Boris Johnson, the strong favourite to become Britain's next prime minister, came under pressure from figures in his own party on Sunday to explain reports of a domestic 'row' that

North Korean leader receives 'excellent' letter from Trump: KCNA

North Korean leader receives 'excellent' letter from Trump: KCNA

AFP, Seoul :North Korean leader Kim Jong Un received a personal letter of "excellent content" from US President Donald Trump, the country's state media said Sunday, amid a nuclear deadlock

US conducted cyber attack on Iran in response to drone downing: Report

US conducted cyber attack on Iran in response to drone downing: Report

The United States launched cyber attacks against Iranian missile control systems and a spy network after Tehran downed an American surveillance drone, according to US media reports.US president Donald Trump