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Macron strives for strong showing

By CHEN YINGQUN | China Daily | Updated: 2019-05-22 07:38

French President Emmanuel Macron (L) speaks with EU Council President Donald Tusk following a meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, May 20, 2019. [Photo/Agencies]

Winning many European seats would be endorsement of his national agenda

French President Emmanuel Macron's centrist party will face a tough challenge from the National Rally in the elections for the European Parliament on Sunday, analysts have said.

Zhao Junjie, a researcher in European studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said as France's political situation has seen great changes in the past two years, Macron cannot be optimistic about the coming election for the assembly and it's possible the far-right party may win the largest number of the 74 seats.

"The yellow vest protests that have lasted for months have damaged Macron's credibility", Zhao said. The election could be an opportunity for parties that are with different political views, he added.

"From various kinds of demands made by protesters in the past few months, we could see that French people are not satisfied with what the mainstream political groups have offered."

Macron's Republic on the Move party is in a tight battle with Marine Le Pen's rightist National Rally in the elections to the European Union's legislature.

An Elabe poll released on May 15 said that Macron's party is expected to win 23.5 percent of the votes, while National Rally is expected to win 22 percent, with other parties expected to win smaller numbers.

Macron defeated Le Pen in the presidential election in 2017 by a wide margin of 66 percent to 34 percent of the vote.

Cui Hongjian, director of the department for European studies at the China Institute of International Studies, noted that the European Parliament election is the first since French presidential election in 2017.

Thus, it will be the first major electoral test of Macron's presidency, he added.

The Republic on the Move party hasn't previously held any seat in the EU's assembly. Macron, a staunch EU supporter, has made great efforts on behalf of his party's candidates in this election. He promised to "energize all efforts so that the National Rally is not in the lead" during the European summit in Sibiu, Romania, earlier this month, according to Xinhua News Agency.

"Macron's party will have to win at least the same number of votes as the National Rally. Otherwise, it would mean a failure to him," Cui said.

He said that if his party falls short in this election, it will place more barriers for him as he tries to push forward the economic reform agenda in France and to seek more say in EU governance.

Macron, 41, a former investment banker, took office in 2017 on promises to revitalize the economy, but his reform agenda has met with great difficulties.

The yellow vest movement, named after the yellow high-visibility vests which French motorists are required to keep in their vehicles, started as a campaign against a fuel tax increase in November 2018. But it has then developed into a nationwide weekend protests against weak economic performance and stagnant incomes under Macron.

Protesters also demand the president step down, although Macron has made a series of measures to quell the public's anger.

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