Macron, Le Pen in battle for EU’s soul

27 May, 2019 12:00 AM printer

PARIS: The fight between President Emmanuel Macron and far-right leader Marine Le Pen in Sunday’s European election in France mirrors a larger battle across the continent between competing visions of bloc’s future, reports AFP.

Macron, France’s youngest ever president, and Le Pen have a lot riding on the results of the polls which both have pitched as a re-run of their duel for the presidency two years ago.

The last opinion surveys appeared to show the far-right National Rally (RN) with a slight edge over Macron’s centrist alliance, including his Republic on the Move (LREM) party.

One poll on Friday put the RN on 25 percent, up 1.5 points in a week, with LREM and its allies stable on 22.5 percent.

Analysts say that two years into his five-year term, the EU represents a critical juncture for Macron and might influence whether the 41-year-old can pursue his pro-business reforms domestically.

But his reputation as the champion of more integration among EU member states is also 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 has made no secret of the significance he attaches to the polls, telling regional French newspapers last week that the elections were the most important for four decades as the union faced an “existential threat”.

He has jumped into the campaign himself in recent weeks, appearing alone on an election poster in a move that exposes him personally if LREM under-performs.