Macron’s vision for Europe faces test in French EU elections

Campaign is being dominated by power struggle between far right and presidents centrist agenda

In a restaurant in northern Paris with European flags pinned to the walls, the former French Europe minister Nathalie Loiseau warned female voters that the rise of the far right threatened their fundamental rights.

Marine Le Pen just met an Estonian interior minister who believes that childless women over 27 are a waste for society, she said. Gasps of horror spread through the crowd. Abortion rights, she warned, could not yet be taken for granted in Europe: Abortion is banned in Malta and restricted in Poland and the UK. More gasps came in response to Northern Irelands laws.

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The French European election campaign has been defined by the president, Emmanuel Macron, as an existential fight between pro-European progressives and Eurosceptic, far-right nationalists. But womens rights are the centrists latest battleground in a bid to persuade millions of abstainers to vote.

Women vote less than men in European elections, warned Loiseau, who is leading Macrons European campaign. The stakes had never been higher, she insisted.

Frances European election battle is being dominated by the domestic power struggle between Macrons centrist camp and Le Pens far-right National Rally party. Never has a European election campaign in the country been such a personality contest between former presidential rivals. Both are vying for first place in the polls on about 22%, with the far right recently inching ahead. But abstention could be as high as 60% and a significant part of the electorate remains undecided.

Marine
Marine Le Pen and her partys lead candidate, Jordan Bardella. Photograph: Frederick Florin/AFP/Getty Images

Macrons decision to wade into the campaign styling himself as the only figure able to hold back the tide of populist nationalism carries risks. If the president, who has promised to rebuild Europe and the European dream, does not come top in Frances European poll it could be portrayed as a disavowal of the pro-European convictions he has put forward, said Franois Miquet-Marty, the head of the Viavoice polling firm.

After six months of gilets jaunes (yellow vests) anti-government protests that have resulted in riots, death and injury, the presidents approval ratings remain low, at about 30%. Le Pen, who used the protest vote to win Frances last European poll in 2014, is shaping the 26 May vote as an anti-Macron referendum.

Le Pens young lead candidate is Jordan Bardella, a 23-year-old from a poor suburb north of Paris and a family descended from Italian immigrants. He is known for slick soundbites and rousing rallies. We must put a stop to open immigration, he said recently in northern France. Le Pen no longer talks of leaving the euro or quitting the EU; instead she wants to team up with Italys far-right deputy prime minister, Matteo Salvini, to disrupt the bloc from within.

Of course the president is going to engage. We cant just pretend this is any old moment in Europe, its not Europe is at risk, a Macron adviser said.

Macrons pledges include a European minimum wage adapted to each country, taxing global tech giants, reform of the Schengen border system and a European army.

Environmental issues top his partys European manifesto, as polls reveal the climate crisis is a key concern for the French electorate. Macron, who faced ecologists fury early in his presidency, has poached key figures from French green politics for his European list. A Viavoice poll showed 67% of French people believed the EU rather than nation states should lead action on the climate emergency.

Another priority for French voters is security how the EU can protect citizens from a range of issues including globalisation, tech giants, the US and China, or from immigration.

Macrons lead candidate, Loiseau, has had a shaky start. Considered a skilled Europe minister she steered Frances approach to Brexit for the past two years she lacked frontline experience and was said to have insufficient charisma. When the investigative website Mediapart revealed she had appeared on a student union ticket with far-right candidates 35 years ago, her response was considered clumsy. She said later she had not been aware of the nature of that list.

Nathalie
Nathalie Loiseau waves an EU flag at the end of a political rally in Strasbourg. Photograph: Vincent Kessler/Reuters

Leila Naceur, a business coach and member of Macrons La Rpublique En Marche party, said: I can already sense a certain protest mood against the president when Im leafleting in markets, even in smart areas of Paris. Its our job to spell out the real dangers of a Le Pen vote right until the final hour.

Timeline

EU elections

European elections what happens next

7am Polls opened on voting for the European elections across the UK and the Netherlands. Broadcasters now need to be very careful about reporting political news, sticking only to the blandest statements about the fact the elections are happening.

10pm Polls close. There will be no exit poll but some of the parties will have a bit of intelligence about how well or badly they have done, based on whether their supporters have been motivated to vote.

Recess begins, meaning MPs are officially on a break from Westminster until 4 June which usually limits their ability to plot as they disperse around the country.

Morning: This is the most likely point for the prime minister to make a statement about her future, under pressure from her cabinet, backbenchers and the grassroots.

Afternoon: If no statement is forthcoming, the 1922 Committee will open an envelope containing the results of a secret ballot on whether to allow another motion of no confidence in the prime minister. This is highly likely to lead to a defeat for May, making it probable that she will opt to set out a timetable for her departure at a time of her choosing.

It is polling day in Ireland and the Czech Republic.

Polling is continuing in Malta, Latvia and Slovakia so the results of the UK elections still cannot be revealed.

All other EU countries have their polling days.

10pm: The votes can be published from now on and the first Europe-wide projection will be available soon after this time.

10.30-11pm: North East, South West, Yorkshire and the Humber declarations (based on 2014).

11.30pm Most Scottish results declared (based on 2014).

Midnight: London, East of England, North West, Wales, West Midlands declarations (based on 2014).

12.30am East Midlands declaration (based on 2014).

2am: Most regions will have declared their results by now, so it will be pretty clear how the parties have done. Polls conducted in recent weeks have suggested the Conservatives are set for a dire showing, with Labour also underperforming. The Brexit party is expected to win and the Liberal Democrats and Greens to enjoy a surge in support.

2.30am South East declaration (based on 2014).

Early morning: If May has set out her plans to resign by now, the Conservative leadership candidates are likely to be quick out of the blocks giving their opinions on the elections and setting out how they will turn their partys fortunes around.

Northern Ireland declaration will be finalised (uses a different system to the rest of the UK).

Stanislas Guerini, the head of En Marche, said there was a lesson from Brexit: Tell your citizens the truth. Its up to governments to explain what the EU does and to stop attacking it. Yes, we can do more in Europe the EU has brought peace, brought the single market, now we must inspire people again with a new European dream.

But the broad-brush battle between Macron and Le Pen has been criticised by other parties as obscuring detailed policy debate. Although there is Euroscepticism on both the French left and right, voters largely stop short of a British-style appetite to leave the EU. But they still want EU reform.

For the rightwing Les Rpublicains, the socially conservative young philosopher, Franois-Xavier Bellamy,has increased support but only to about 14%. The French left remains fragmented, with Jean-Luc Mlenchons France Unbowed and the Green party vying for fourth place. Lists featuring gilets jaunes protester candidates themselves lag far behind.

Emmanuel Macron is young and he may have his faults, said Catherine, a Paris screenwriter and Macron supporter whose relatives in northern France vote for Le Pen. But he has been very clear on Europe from the start and hes the only one pushing to build the foundations of a better EU.

Original Article : HERE ; The Ultimate Survival Food: The Lost Ways

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