The parliamentary elections are being framed as a bitter contest between europhiles who want deeper integration and eurosceptics who are tired of following the Brussels rule book. “The European Union, seeing the way things are going now, is heading for a fall,” Manon Aubry told France 2 television when asked to comment on President Emmanuel Macron’s earlier claim that the bloc faces an “existential risk” from nationalists. With three days to go before French voters elect their representatives for the 751-seat parliament, the election is becoming both a referendum on Mr Macron’s first two years in power and a vote of confidence in the EU.
Polls show far-right leader Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement national (RN) with a slight edge over Mr Macron’s centrist alliance, results which also reflect Europe’s rightward tilt.
A BVA-Orange poll published on Wednesday morning showed Mrs Le Pen’s Europe-weary RN winning 23 percent of the French vote, and Mr Macron’s La République en Marche (REM) winning 22 percent.
A separate poll by Elabe published on Tuesday evening showed the RN coming in first position with 23.5 percent of the vote and the REM second with 23 percent.
Coming in second place, however, could hurt Mr Macron’s reform ambitions both at home and on the European stage and badly dent his authority.
But it could also cost the 41-year-old leader influence over policymaking affecting some 427 million Europeans and credibility with other EU leaders, just as they negotiate the next top jobs in Brussels, including the European Commission presidency.
Mrs Le Pen, for her part, sees the upcoming parliamentary election as her chance to upstage a weakened Mr Macron and move into the political mainstream.
Mr Macron has called for deeper EU integration and urged voters to shun far-right populists, while Mrs Le Pen has tapped into growing dissatisfaction with the EU and pledged to reform the bloc from within, rolling back its treaties and common rules and turning it into a union of independent nation states.
Mrs Le Pen’s lead candidate for the EU election, 23-year-old Jordan Bardella, has for his part focused on discrediting Mr Macron, urging the young president to resign if his party fails to win the most French seats in the EU chamber.
“If the RN wins, Mr Macron should draw the consequences and the conclusions from his defeat,” Mr Bardella told Europe 1 radio on Wednesday.
“If he loses, he must go away,” he continued. “Mr Macron is an arrogant leader who holds the French in contempt. If we come out on top in this election, he will at least get a lesson in humility.”
Far-right nationalists are expected to make significant gains in the EU election, with Mrs Le Pen tipping her current alliance – the Europe of Nations and Freedom (ENF) – for 80-120 EU seats.
But polls show the ENF is likely to win some 70-80 seats, around double its current number.
The Elabe poll of 2,004 people for BFMTV was carried out between May 19-21; while the BVA-Orange poll of 1,347 people for la presse régionale, La Tribune and Europe 1 was carried out between May 20-21.
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