French political class rallies behind Macron, against Le Pen

Most of France's mainstream politicians have backed Emmanuel Macron for the French presidency. [pixinoo/ Shutterstock]

Politicians on both the right and the left have called on French voters to support Emmanuel Macron in the second round of the presidential election on 7 May. Most see Marine Le Pen’s anti-European programme as a threat to France’s stability. EURACTIV France reports.

After emerging victorious in Sunday’s (23 April) first-round vote, Macron quickly rallied support from across the political spectrum as it became clear that National Front leader Le Pen would challenge him for the presidency in the second round run-off.

Macron won around 24% of the vote to Le Pen’s 21.5%.

Statements of support

Once the result was known, neither third-place Republican candidate François Fillon (19.9%) or fifth-place Socialist candidate Benoît Hamon (6.3%) hesitated to offer their support to the former economy minister for the second round.

France’s two traditional parties joined in the appeal to voters to stop the extreme-right’s rise. “It is now up to Emmanuel Macron to bring together the French people,” said veteran Republican politician Alain Juppé. As president, he hopes Macron would “restore France’s credibility in Europe and the world”.

On the right, many spoke up against the economic consequences of Le Pen’s anti-EU project. “The election of Marine Le Pen will end in economic chaos, especially if we leave the euro,” former Minister for Higher Education Laurent Wauquiez said on TF1.

Although he called on voters to “block” the National Front, he could not bring himself to ask them to vote for Macron.

For Republican MEP Philip Juvin, the decision voters have to make can be broken down into a choice for or against Europe.

A referendum on Europe?

The National Front itself appears to have made the same observation. Once the results were in, extreme-right MEP Florian Philippot said voters should decide: “is it France or the European Union”.

Fillon became the first centre-right candidate in the history of the fifth republic not to make it to the second round of the presidential election. He immediately accepted responsibility for the defeat and called on his supporters to back Macron to avoid the “European chaos of leaving the euro”.

European Commission Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier also urged France not to follow the same path as the UK, saying on Twitter that “France must stay European”.

While Socialist President François Hollande had remained tight-lipped before the first round, he was quick to rally behind Macron once the result was known. Other members of the government, including Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve, also announced their support for former colleague Macron.

The left backs Macron

For Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, supporting Macron is “a clear choice”. Secretary of State for European Affairs Harlem Désir called for “a clear and resounding vote for Macron in the second round”, and French European Commissioner Pierre Moscovici backed Macron as “the standard bearer for all pro-European democrats”.

Among the Greens, who had backed Hamon during the campaign, the situation is little different. MEP Karima Delli said the vote for Macron in the second round is a vote for a “France that it open to Europe and the world”, while her colleague Michèle Rivasi called for a “more social Europe”.

But on the right, some balk at the thought of supporting the political upstart. The ‘Common Sense’ movement, a hard right-wing branch of the Republican party opposed to gay marriage, led a violent campaign against Macron and has not yet made a voting recommendation for the second round.

And on the extreme left, a disappointed Jean-Luc Mélenchon has said his voters should follow their own consciences but has not said who he will vote for, or whether he will vote at all.

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