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ELECTION

Why Emmanuel Macron is the darling of foreigners in France

French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron might not be the darling of all French voters but he seems to be popular among foreigners in France and also abroad. Here's why.

Why Emmanuel Macron is the darling of foreigners in France
All photos: AFP
1. He is pro-Europe
 
During a particularly turbulent time for Europeans, Macron is the loudest pro-EU voice in France's election campaign, which is why he has caught the attention of British and other European citizens in France, most of whom tend to be pro-EU.
 
Indeed, when faced with the anti-EU, far-right Marine Le Pen and the rightwing, social conservative Francois Fillon who doesn't appear to be a big believer in the current European project either, Macron comes across as a saviour for those who still believe in the concept of an open Europe. 
 
His campaign rallies are the only ones where the European Union flag is waved with both Le Pen and Fillon's supporters preferring the French tricolour.
 
His pro-EU stance is soothing relief for those Brits in France for whom Brexit still causes sleepless nights and its earned him some positive press in the pro-EU Anglo press. This headline below is from the Foreign Policy website, while The Guardian said a Macron victory would “give the EU a chance to save itself”.
 
 
Philip Mold, a 59-year-old Brit living in the Gironde department in western France, says he has been an official “adherent” to Macron since April last year. 
 
“He offers a new approach, a genuine enthusiasm for Europe and much more, if only Britain had a Macron, and how sad it is I will not have a vote on 2017,” he told The Local.
 
 
2. He's not Le Pen (or Fillon for that matter) or even Trump
 
Foreigners in France are naturally worried about the rise of the far right which means the prospect of Marine Le Pen becoming president.
 
Their worries appear genuine, not least because she's made it obvious she doesn't really like foreign migrants and secondly she has recently made it very clear that she will put French first and foreigners second.
 
 
You only have to trawl the message boards of groups of Brits living in France to see that many are worried about the double whammy of Brexit and a Le Pen victory.
 
Members of the Remain in France Together Facebook group, made up of anti-Brexit British citizens in France, are often quick to share their admiration for Macron, with a popular post last week offering directions for how to register as a supporter for Macron's party – En Marche!
 
“We may not be able to vote or attend marches in the UK, but we can offer our help to stop the march of the far right across Europe and I think Macron is our best hope,” said Shelagh Dolley, who said she received a warm welcome at a local committee meeting of Macron supporters. 
 
 
While Fillon might have a British wife and be dubbed the French Maggie Thatcher there does not seem to be anywhere near the kind of support for him as there is for Macron, who for some is just “the least worst” of the main candidates.
 
“Out of the three (Le Pen, Fillon and Macron), I think there is only one who is anywhere near beneficial for us. I don’t like his policies particularly, but Macron seems the least worst of these three,” said Bob McNair on the RIFT group.
 
Socialist Party candidate Benoit Hamon barely seems to get a mention in message boards, perhaps a sign there is little belief he can trouble the three main candidates.
 
(AFP)
 
3. And apart from being pro-Europe Macron said Brits in France are “very welcome” after a Brexit
 
A video where Macron said (in English) that he would be “pretty tough” on Brexit has naturally drawn praise from Brits in France, who are increasingly anxious about their futures.
 
“We have to preserve the rest of the European Union and not to convey the message that we can decide to leave without any consequences,” he said. 
 
When he was asked if he would guarantee the rights of Brits living in France, he said:
 
“For sure, they are very welcome.”

His comments prompted positive feedback on the Remain in France Together Facebook group.
 
Commenters praised Macron's integrity, with others noting that he seemed “clever” and “genuine”.

 
4. He has also made a plea to disillusioned Americans
 
In a video from earlier this month Macron appealed to climate scientists and engineers specializing in renewable energy who might be disillusioned at the election of Donald Trump to leave the US and move to France.
“I do know how your new President now has decided to jeopardise your budget, your initiatives, as he is extremely sceptical about climate change,” he said.
 
“I have no doubt about climate change and how committed we have to be regarding this issue.”
 
“We like innovation, we want innovative people, we want people working on climate change, energy, renewables and new technologies.”
 
“France is your nation. Thanks.”
 
The video went down well with many across the Atlantic. 
 
“If Macron manages to win, I say we all bail to France. Not just the scientists,” wrote one Twitter user. 
 
“I'm ready!! Where do I sign??” wrote another. 
 
 
5. He is fresh and new
 
Macron is in his thirties (but only just at 39) – in contrast to his main rivals Fillon, who is 62-years-old and Le Pen, who is 48, but gives the impression she has been around for decades.
 
While Macron's youth, inexperience and independence from the traditional left and right may evoke suspicion in many French voters, who are more used to their presidential candidates having been around the block a few times, his freshness is perhaps more appealing to foreigners who are more used to political renewal.
 
 
 
Matt Volsky, a Californian supporter of Macron living in Paris, says the politician's energy rivals that of former US president Barack Obama.
 
“He seems young, energetic, and intelligent,” he tells The Local. 
 
“And it's refreshing to see politicians who are more forward thinking.”
 
6. He speaks English (and very well)
 
This is the obvious one. Macron speaks English and that means we can all understand him. 
 
And let's face it it's astonishingly rare for a French politician to speak such good English – some French politicians (past and present) have been awful at best, as the video below shows. 
 
 
Macron, however, not only speaks English well, but he has spoken it for full press seminars, interviews, and even in tweets. 
 
For the record, presidential candidate Francois Fillon also apparently speaks good English (he's married to a Welsh woman after all). The other front runner, Marine Le Pen, refuses to speak English in public (though perhaps she can). 
 
And sure, Macron has an unusual, almost German accent, but it's a ten out of ten compared to the rest. 
 
7. He wants to bring France into the 21st century
 
And lastly, many foreigners in France like Macron because he dares to offer something new.
 
Sure, many foreigners love France for exactly what it is, but many wouldn't deny that France can be a little… shall we say, behind the times or stuck in its ways.
 
But Macron is promising to change all that by dragging France into the 21st century. Whether he can is a different question.
 
 
His Macron law, introduced when he was the Economy Minister, hardly brought about a sea change, but it did show his willingness to open up areas of the economy.
 
His reform of Sunday shopping laws will have gone down well with those foreigners who hate the fact everything closes on a Sunday in France.
 
 
“The idea that a new independently-minded Minister could challenge some of the blockages in the French economy instantly enthralled me,” Brit in France Philip Mold told The Local. 

And it's also enthralled Britain's Financial Times newspaper who pointed out that Macron was France's “only candidate offering economic optimism” in their editorial titled “French economy needs reform not revolution”.

 

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ELECTION

Le Pen narrowly tops European election polls in France in blow for Macron

The far-right National Rally party led by Marine Le Pen finished top in European elections in France on Sunday, dealing a blow to pro-European President Emmanuel Macron.

Le Pen narrowly tops European election polls in France in blow for Macron
Marine Le Pen and Jordan Bardella. Photo: AFP

Results released on Monday morning by the Ministry of the Interior, which have yet to be formally verified and declared by the National Voting Commission, showed that the far right Rassemblement National (RN) party topped the polls with 23.3 percent of the vote, beating French president Emmanuel Macron's La Republique En Marche.

They were closely followed by Macron's party, which polled 22.4 percent.

Emmanuel and Brigitte Macron at a polling station in Le Touquet earlier on Sunday. Photo: AFP

The allocation of seats in the European Parliament has been complicated for France by the UK's delayed departure from the EU.

The Parliament had already decided that after Brexit, some of the seats that had been occupied by British MEPs would be reallocated to other countries, with France set to gain an extra five seats

However, last minute delays to Brexit meant that the UK had to take part in the elections, with the result that France will not gain its extra seats until Britain leaves the EU.

On last night's polling results, the RN will get 22 seats in the European parliament immediately, and an extra seat once Britain leaves.

Macron's LREM will get 21 seats now and 23 after the UK leaves.

The green party lead by Yannick Jadot was placed third with 13.4 percent of the vote, gaining 12 seats now and 13 after Brexit. 

The two parties that between them had dominated French politics for decades until the rise of Macron both polled in single figures. Nicolas Sarkozy's old party Les Republicains polled 8.4 percent, while the Socialist party of Francois Hollande was on 6.31 percent, winning them eight and six seats respectively.

Meanwhile the 'yellow vest' candidates scored just 0.54 percent of the vote, below the Animalist party which polled 2.17 percent.

Nathalie Loiseau with LREM party workers. Photo: AFP

Although a total of 34 parties fielded candidates in the European elections in France, the election had largely been framed as a contest between Macron and Le Pen.

Macron's La Republique En Marche party, its list headed by former Europe Minister Nathalie Loiseau, was contesting its first European elections.

Marine Le Pen, on the other hand, was hoping to replicate her 2014 European election victory with her Rassemblement National party, its list headed by a political novice, the 23-year-old Jordan Bardella. Bardella called the results a “failure” for the LREM ruling party and sought to portray Macron's defeat as a rejection by voters of his pro-business agenda in France and pro-EU vision.

Macron had made no secret of the significance he attached to the results, telling regional French newspapers last week that the EU elections were the most important for four decades as the union faced an “existential threat”.

Jordan Bardella, head of the RN list. Photo: AFP

He has jumped into the campaign himself in recent weeks, appearing alone on an election poster in a move that analysts saw as exposing him personally if LREM underperformed.

The score of the National Rally is slightly below the level of 2014 when it won 24.9 percent, again finishing top.

Le Pen had placed herself towards the bottom of the RN list, so she will be returning to the European Parliament, where she served as an MEP from 2004 to 2017.

Turnout at the polls in France was the highest in recent years, with 50.12 percent of people voting, significantly up from 35.07 percent in 2014.

Veteran France reporter John Lichfield said: “After six months of 'yellow vest' rebellion, that Macron list has 22 percent is respectable. Much better than President Hollande did in 2014 (14.5 percent).

“But he made the election all about himself and lost. His hopes of emerging as de facto EU leader or enacting more French reforms are damaged.”

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