‘I won’t serve Marine Le Pen’: French ambassador breaks protocol

France's ambassador to Japan has broken diplomatic protocol and stated publicly that he would refuse to serve far-right leader Marine Le Pen if she becomes president, earning approval from his colleague in Washington.

'I won't serve Marine Le Pen': French ambassador breaks protocol
Photo: AFP

France's ambassador to Japan has broken diplomatic protocol and stated publicly that he would refuse to serve far-right leader Marine Le Pen if she becomes president, earning approval from his colleague in Washington.

The comments underline growing unease in France's diplomatic corps about the prospect of a Le Pen presidency ahead of a two-stage presidential election on April 23 and May 7.

Though no polls currently show her winning, the anti-immigration nationalist is hoping to emulate the success of US President Donald Trump, who has faced his own problems with rebellious diplomats.

“If the French tragedy comes to pass and leads to her election, I would withdraw from all my diplomatic functions,” France's ambassador in Tokyo Thierry Dana, 60, (see pic below) wrote in a column in Le Monde newspaper on Wednesday.

Outspoken ambassador to Washington Gerard Araud praised his colleague for his “excellent article”. Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault has sent a reminder to all diplomats about the need for “prudence and the principle of neutrality”.

“Against the backdrop of rising populism, we need to keep cool heads, or else risk encouraging the rise of demagoguery directed against public servants,” he wrote in the memo, a copy of which was seen by AFP.

Le Pen, 48, frequently rails against “the establishment” for trying to sabotage her campaign and has recently accused civil servants of abetting her worsening legal problems.

She faces prosecution for distributing images of Islamic State atrocities over Twitter as well as separate cases over misusing public funds at the European Parliament and campaign financing.

Polls currently suggest 39-year-old centrist Emmanuel Macron is the most likely to win the election, but analysts warn against firm forecasts after a highly unpredictable campaign.

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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.”