Macron the ‘patriot’ vows to battle threat of nationalist Le Pen

Emmanuel Macron will take on Marine Le Pen in the second round of the French presidential election. He says he wants to be the "president of "patriots against the threat of nationalists".

Macron the 'patriot' vows to battle threat of nationalist Le Pen
Photo: AFP

Pro-Europe centrist Emmanuel Macron vowed Sunday to battle the “threat of nationalists” after results showed he would face far-right leader Marine Le Pen in the run-off of France's presidential election next month.

Thousands of supporters waving French flags shouted in ecstasy as Macron and his spouse, Brigitte Trogneux — his former teacher who is 25 years his senior — took to the stage.

To chants of “Macron president!” and “We're going to win,” Macron began his speech by paying tribute to his opponents, and praised his supporters for his lightning rise.

“I want to be the president of the patriots against the threat of nationalists,” the 39-year-old former banker told hundreds of flag-waving supporters.

“In your name, I will be… the voice of hope for our country and for Europe,” said Macron, who had never before stood for election and only started his centrist movement 12 months ago.

He will meet Le Pen in the May 7 second round.

Opinion polls released after the first-round showed the pro-business moderniser would easily beat Le Pen, who has hardened her anti-immigration and anti-Europe rhetoric over the last week.

The French vote on Sunday was being closely watched as a bellwether for populist sentiment following the election of Donald Trump as US President and Britain's vote to leave the EU.

Macron and Le Pen have together ensured that for the first time since the war neither the left nor the right will be represented in the second round run off vote.

Macron vowed to unite voters to ensure he would become the youngest president of France.

“I will work over the coming fortnight so that together we can gather as many people as possible around my candidacy,” he told cheering crowds.

“The strength of this coming together will be decisive for government. The challenge this evening is not to vote against a person, but to decide to break completely with a system that has been incapable of responding to our country’s problems for 30 years.”

Macron's rise has been phenomenal given he only formed his movement a year ago. Many judged his bid for the presidency as a “crazy gamble”.

“To all those who have accompanied me since April 2016, in founding and bringing En Marche! to life, I would like to say this: in the space of a year, we have changed the face of French political life,” he told supporters.

Those ecstatic crowds who had waited to hear him speak at Porte de Versailles in the south of Paris cheered his every word.

Most were confident of winning the second round against Le Pen.

“I'm in no way worried, I'm am certain Macron will win”, Florent, a 30-year-old consultant, told The Local.

A 35-year-old lawyer Yves-Justice Djimi told The Local: “In a second between Macron and Le Pen, most of the right and most of the left would support Macron. His strength is that he is unifying.”

But other voters did not want to celebrate judging the presence of Le Pen in the second round to be cause for worry.

“Knowing that nearly 22 percent of the French voted for a huge xenophobe is a source serious concern,” 40-year-old Adina L told The Local.

At the FN's electoral headquarters at Henin-Beaumont in northern France's rundown industrial belt, there were similar scenes of celebration.

When news that Marine Le Pen would advance to the second round of France's presidential elecition and the room broke out into cheers, chants, and manic flag waving. The Marseillaise was sung.

Le Pen, 48, wants France to quit the eurozone, restore border controls and stage a referendum on leaving the EU.

“The first step… has been taken. This result is historic,” she said, declaring it “time to liberate the French people”.

Le Pen's critics accuse her of sanitising the image of Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and racism associated with her firebrand father.

Many Le Pen supporters who The Local spoke to knew they would be up against it.
“I'm happy with these results but I was expecting a different score… but as long as she is through it's a good thing,” said Louis, an 18-year-old student. 
“But we are scared that people will block her in the second round.”
Those calls to block Le Pen went out immediately. One of the first to issue the call to “block extremism” was the defeated candidate François Fillon.
“I will vote for Emmanuel Macron,” said the candidate who only months ago was considered a shoo-in for the presidency.
So what can we expect in the battle between Le Pen and Macron?
This is the scenario Le Pen especially would choose to face and has already dubbed it “patriots vs globalists”. Expect her to play on this division.
Le Pen vs Macron is being seen as a battle between old France and new France, “resignation” vs “optimism”, a closed country vs an open one, protectionism vs globalisation, a “free and independent France” versus a France that is an integral part of Europe.
Macron says Le Pen wants to take France back to the 1950s while he wants to pull it into the 21st century. 
Le Pen says “Islamism would be on the move” under a Macron presidency where as Macron accused Le Pen of making enemies out of France's Muslim population.
Everywhere you look there are clear battle lines. While everyone has talked of undecided voters, there presumably wouldn't be many if this pair went head to head.
There may be abstentions though. True leftists from Mélenchon and Hamon's camp may not be able to bring themselves to vote for pro-business Macron. Hardcore Republican supporters will also find both candidates unappealing. 
Marine Le Pen will do everything in the next two weeks to present Macron as a threat to France and its identity and culture.
Macron probably just has to hold his nerves over the next two weeks. After that he will likely have five years to try to prove he his not a threat to a France but a solution.
It won't be easy.



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.”