Macron hammer blow as Le Pen ‘more in tune with daily issues’
The French leader is facing Marine Le Pen for the second time at the ballot box for a very closely-watched election across Europe. Mr Macron is currently leading the polls with more than 10 points ahead of the far-right leader. His expected victory might not come as a surprise on Sunday evening as votes will start to be counted, but according to Generation Frexit leader Charles-Henri Gallois, the incumbent president will see five years of disruption across France.
Speaking to Express.co.uk in Paris, Mr Gallois claimed Gilet Jaunes (Yellow Vests) protesters will gather in mass demonstrations of unprecedented scale.
He said: “What you’ve seen until now with the Gilet Jaunes will be ten times more if Macron wins.
“Some say that if Le Pen wins there will be chaos in the streets.
“But they don’t even imagine the chaos there will be if Macron wins. A lot more chaos.
“Demonstrations in the streets will be huge from his very first move.
“The Gilet Jaunes won’t have it.”
While opinion polls point to a win for President Emmanuel Macron in the run-off ballot, Le Pen’s slim chance of beating him prompted the leaders of Germany, Portugal and Spain this week to warn French voters in a joint op-ed against “a candidate who stands with those attacking our liberty and democracy”.
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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada, a NATO ally, made no attempt to hide his preference, saying on Thursday that “it would be a good thing for the world” if Macron was re-elected.
Officials interviewed by Reuters in Washington and European capitals said there had been little planning by Western governments for a Le Pen win. One senior EU diplomat said it had been “just too appalling to consider” the prospect of a deep eurosceptic in the Elysee Palace who – before the invasion of Ukraine – openly admired Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Some worry that should Le Pen be elected, transatlantic unity against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could unravel, and both NATO and the European Union would be plunged into a crisis that tears at their cohesion.
Marc Pierini, a Carnegie Europe scholar, said it would render NATO and the EU “instantly weaker”, “represent the culmination of Russian support to France’s extreme right”, and redefine the Franco-German axis long at the heart of Europe.
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The Biden administration has been increasingly concerned in recent weeks about a Le Pen win as the White House ramps up new sanctions to halt the Russian military advance in the Donbas, according to a person familiar with the conversations.
Russia calls its actions in Ukraine a “special military operation”.
Le Pen agrees with sanctions against Russia’s oligarchs and its financial system, but says she is opposed to an embargo on imports of Russian energy, on which the EU is already divided.
The Washington source said her election could also slow momentum towards a key NATO summit in June where allies plan to unveil a new long-term strategy focused on containing Russia.
Le Pen has said she would take France out of the US-led defence alliance’s integrated command structure to restore French sovereignty on matters of international security.
She has also pledged to end Franco-German military cooperation, including future warplane and tank programmes. This would affect the future of the 100 bln euros development of a next-generation Franco-German-Spanish fighter jet.
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French election: Marine Le Pen is not expected to win
“It’s hard to imagine that the Franco-German tandem can still work with her,” Anton Hofreiter, leader of the European committee of Germany’s lower house of parliament, the Bundestag, who told Reuters “the EU would never be the same again”.
Le Pen, 53, softened her party’s euroscepticism after she lost her bid for the presidency to Macron in 2017 to make it more acceptable to mainstream voters.
While her support is not so much driven by eurosceptic sentiment, political opponents say her policies could ultimately lead to an estrangement or even an exit from the bloc.
She insists she has no “secret agenda” for France – a founding member of the EU – to leave the 27-nation bloc, its single currency or its passport-free Schengen zone.
However, critics believe her policies would at best create new tensions within the bloc – whose unity has been tested in recent years by a migration crisis, Britain’s departure and the COVID-19 pandemic – and at worst lead to a “Frexit”.
Le Pen has said she would cut French contributions to the EU budget, renegotiate the Schengen agreement and re-introduce checks on goods entering the country from other EU states.
Most worrying for Europhiles, she would seek to re-establish the primacy of French law over EU law – the foundational basis of European integration – and wants the bloc to become a loose association of cooperating sovereign countries.