Macron’s LREM wants to turn EU elections into duel with Rassemblement National

The European Parliament. [Shutterstock]

Unlike other groups, LREM is allowing itself until the start of March to reveal who will lead its list for the European elections, hoping it will therefore have the time to mobilise its political partners at the European Parliament. EURACTIV France reports.

The name of the person who will lead the list of La République En Marche (LREM) in the European elections will only be revealed between late February and early March.

This decision was defended by Stanislas Guerini, who took over the reins of the political movement on 1 December 2018.

“If we want a majority at the European Parliament, it is normal for us to take our time choosing the right person,” the delegate general told LREM’s press conference in Paris on 24 January.

While almost all the other political parties in France have made progress in formulating their lists, LREM is building up suspense. However, if the European elections took place on Sunday (27 January, the majority party in France would come out on top with 23.5% of the vote, according to a poll by Elabe for BFM TV, a private French television channel.

En Marche hits the campaign trail against the 'enemies of Europe'

President Emmanuel Macron’s party launched its campaign for the European elections, reflecting on a consultation about Europe involving 71,000 French people held in the spring. LREM wants to present itself as the only truly pro-European party. EURACTIV France reports.

Voting intentions for LREM have increased by 4 points compared to a poll in November. This push gives the party a comfortable lead over Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National (formerly FN), which is credited with 20.5% of voting intentions.

The conservative Les Républicains would gain 12.5% of votes, followed by the far-left La France Insoumise (9.5%) and Europe Ecology – The Greens (9%).

These figures do not take into account a possible ‘yellow vest’ list, which may still be formed for the May elections. Such a grouping would only slightly intrude on En Marche’s pool of voters, instead pulling more voters from the Rassemblement National.

France's 'yellow vests' to run for European elections

A group of French “yellow vest” protesters announced plans Wednesday (23 January) to field candidates in this year’s European Parliament elections, with a 31-year-old health worker to lead a list that a poll suggests could win up to 13% of the vote.

While the party founded by Emmanuel Macron is leading in the polls, it will be embarking on a campaign for the European elections for the first time.

Europe was an issue which the movement broadly capitalised on during the 2017 French presidential election campaign and which can now be used to polarise the debate between anti-European populists and pro-European progressives.

Campaign against Rassemblement National

The LREM delegate general summarised what is at stake during the European election campaign as a duel between the party and Le Pen’s Rassemblement National. The far-right party came first at the last European elections in 2014 and has 24 seats at the European Parliament.

“We want to win the battle of ideas in Europe and ensure that our ideas govern France and Europe,” Guerini said. For this purpose, the May 2019 European elections are “a historic event.”

“We’re not the incumbent party at this election. We’ll run an aggressive campaign,” he continued. He also denounced the Rassemblement National’s record and the false information being circulated about Europe by the far-right party.

In recent weeks, Le Pen’s party has spread false information, notably about the global migration pact and the Franco-German Treaty of Aachen, which was accused of ceding Alsace-Lorraine to Berlin. “The campaign for the European elections will be one of fake news,” warned Guerini.

Alliance in progress

While LREM’s campaign roadmap seems well established on the French side, things are still very uncertain at the European level. Discussions with the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE), led by former Belgium prime minister Guy Verhofstadt, are ongoing, confirmed Guerini, recognising ALDE as “a natural ally.”

However, at the moment, LREM is refusing to run a joint campaign with this political group, the fourth largest force in the European Parliament. “We are continuing discussions but with the intention of going beyond this,” explained Guerini, who hopes “to be part of a stronger political group in the European Parliament and then to build a majority with the progressives.”

Macron's 'En Marche' kicks off election campaign in Germany

After last week’s European election campaign kickoff in France, Macron’s “En Marche” aims to drum its electorate against populism in Germany, too. EURACTIV Germany reports.

This plan may come up against the current system of parties at the European Parliament, who will all campaign for their candidates to become president of the European Commission, including Verhofstadt, ALDE’s likely candidate.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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