Macron May Need to Seek Support of Political Opponents in EU Election - Scholars

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MOSCOW (Sputnik) - French President Emmanuel Macron might want to seek an alliance with his opponents in the right-wing parties and to attract left-wing voters to gain seats in the EU parliament, while the upcoming election itself will be a barometer of people's attitude to the union, experts told Sputnik.

In France, the president's rating has plummeted lately, down to 29 percent, which is his lowest result since he was elected in May 2017.

Coalition With the Left

The latest Odoxa study shows that 21 percent of the French would back the right-wing party of Marine Le Pen, National Rally (RN), in the election to the European Parliament, which is only 0.5 percent fewer than those who would support president Macron’s La Republique en Marche (LREM).

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Dr. Paul Smith, a researcher specializing in French politics from the University of Nottingham, believes that Le Pen’s party is likely to keep the same score at the EU elections in May, and that Macron needs to gather supporters in all major French political parties, including the Socialists.

"Macron will be seeking to build a kind of progressive consensus in the middle and he might try to reach out to socialists. The old Socialist Party is still in existence, politicians are still there and the voters are still there. He will try and open things up to left-wing voters who are pro-European," Smith said.

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The University of Nottingham expert is less certain about LREM's ability to join forces with Jean-Luc Melenchon, the leader of left-wing Unsubmissive France, whose "euro-skepticism is pretty firm."

"There might be some kind of broad coalition … It seems that there is a possibility to build consensus around the middle, around the center with LREM in the middle, reaching out to towards left-wing voters with promises of Europe that becomes more socially concerned. The great failure of Europe from the left-wing perspective is a failure to build a social Europe. By the left-wing parties, Europe is seen as a free market which has forgotten about the interests of the working class, of unemployed etc.," Smith said.

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The expert believes there will be some sort of "horse-trading," with Macron offering members of the smaller political parties places on the election list, so that they would be certain to have seats in the EU Parliament in case the party gains 30 percent of the mandates, for instance.

"He will want to try and do deals with pro-European parties, but they might decide they will be better off outside. The calculation other parties have to make is whether they will get above the threshold or is it better to be in a coalition with somebody else or is it better to stand by yourself. So there is a lot of calculations being done at the moment and a lot of that calculations may have very little to do with policy and may be much more driven by horse-trading," Smith said.

Alliance With the Right Complicated

Smith explained that Macron would want to go back to the idea he built his election campaign on — gathering the center-left and center-right in a sort of a progressive pro-European coalition.

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"There are some in the Republican rights who want to take them to a more euro-skeptical position, and then there are others, pro-European liberals and centrists who see themselves as much more pro-European… The ideal Macron position is that he would love to build a single list where LREM is the core, but where he goes back to the kind of origins of "macronism", the idea of being built around the alliance of center-left and center-right," Smith said.

However, the expert finds this unlikely.

"The big question is whether he can use from his perspective the issue of Europe to bring over the 'Macron-compatible' right in some kind of alliance and whether he can do it on the left," Smith said.

Competition for Euro-Skeptic Votes

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Smith stressed that the right-wing RN party usually showed good results in the EU elections, but now it has to distinguish itself from the left-wing Melenchon’s Unsubmissive France, equally built around criticizing Europe.

"Le Pen will be thinking about two things: attacking the EU as an institution and Macron as a pro-European, but also she will be trying to distinguish her euro-skepticism, her sovereignty from Jean-Luc Melenchon. Although they are on the opposite ends of the spectrum, in political terms their electorates are not very different. There are a lot of left-wing communist voters in France, who stopped voting communists and vote for the RN," Smith said.

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The expert added that some of these voters may gravitate back toward Melenchon.

Referendum for or Against Europe

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A new Europe is taking shape with a significant role of the right-wing parties in many governments and some key posts in Brussels occupied by right-wing politicians, Jean-Yves Camus, a political analyst at the French Institute for International and Strategic Affairs (IRIS), told Sputnik.

"These European elections can be a sort of referendum for or against Europe. Macron wants to be the leader of the progressivists against populists, how he himself put it … Macron’s strategy is good — profiting from the fact that the German chancellor is weakened, profiting from the fact that there are not many other liberal pro-European politicians in power in Europe to present himself as the last guard staying against populists in the [EU] parliament and to mobilize pro-European electorate," Camus said.

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The expert believes that Europe will not be the same after the election to the European Parliament, scheduled for May 23-26, 2019.

The views and opinions expressed by the speakers do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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