Posts Tagged ‘Emmanuel Macron’

Macron bans Russian-state media from campaign trail

April 29, 2017

AFP

© THOMAS SAMSON / POOL / AFP | French presidential election candidate for the En Marche ! movement Emmanuel Macron talks to the press on April 18, 2017.

French presidential frontrunner Emmanuel Macron’s campaign Thursday denied press access and passes to two Russian state-backed media, RT (formerly Russia Today) and Sputnik, accusing them of spreading “propaganda” and “misleading information”.

The decision was described as “scandalous” by Kremlin foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, after Macron confirmed to AFP that the access applications had been refused.

“It (RT) is not just a news outlet like the others,” a source in the Macron campaign told the Daily Beast on Monday, “it is a propaganda organ. Therefore we have decided not to give it accreditation.”

RT promptly hit back, telling the Daily Beast, “RT has not received an official reason for its exclusion from the Macron presidential campaign. We hope that his team will see fit to afford the courtesy of accreditation to RT shortly, and not attempt to curtail journalism, and manipulate the media, by selecting who can and can’t report on his campaign.”

Macron’s campaign accuses RT of spreading ‘fake news,’ dodges requests for clarification https://on.rt.com/8a96 

The Kremlin’s Zakharova said that the necessary requests had been made by Russia media and as “other foreign media have not faced any obstacles, we consider these prohibitory measures to be targeted and openly discriminatory”.

Sputnik and RT (Russia Today) were created by the Kremlin for foreigners, and are available in several languages including French. According to Le Monde, the French-language versions of both RT and Sputnik are “very present on [French] social media,” and both sites doubled their traffic in 2016.

A “smear campaign”

The Macron campaign did not offer specific examples of what it considered “propaganda” from RT or Sputnik. However, in February, Macron’s spokesman Benjamin Griveaux accused the Kremlin of mounting a “smear campaign” via state media against the pre-EU centrist former economy minister.

Sputnik published an extensive interview with right-wing Les Républicains lawmaker Nicolas Dhuicq on February 4, in which Dhuicq accused Macron of being an “agent of the big American banking system” and of having “a very wealthy gay lobby behind him”.

The article may have prompted Macron on February 7 to publicly deny having an extramarital homosexual affair.

Anti-Macron or just pro-Le Pen?

Russia is viewed as a keen backer of Macron’s rival Marine Le Pen in the presidential race. Le Pen even met Russian President Vladimir Putin in a surprise visit to Moscow ahead of France’s April 23 first round vote.

RUSSIA ‘ACTIVELY INVOLVED’ IN FRENCH ELECTION, WARNS US SENATE INTELLIGENCE CHIEF

Russian attempts to influence the French campaign via hacking are easier to prove: cybersecurity experts have said they are “99 percent sure” that Russian hackers are targeting the Macron campaign.

The Russian cyber-spying group Pawn Storm used “phishing” techniques to try to steal personal data from Macron and members of his ‘En Marche!’ (Forward!) campaign, the Japanese cyber-security firm Trend Micro said Tuesday.

“This group set up a specific infrastructure to target Emmanuel Macron’s movement in March and April 2017,” Loïc Guézo, Trend Micro’s strategy director for southern Europe, told FRANCE 24.

Pawn Storm – also known as Fancy Bear, Sednit, APT28, Sofacy or Strontium – is also believed to be behind the attacks last summer on the US Democratic National Committee, thought to be aimed at undermining Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid.

The group is widely suspected of having links to Russia’s security services.

Moscow has denied any involvement in seeking to influence France’s election, which will be decided in a second round run-off between Macron and Le Pen on May 7.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

China more interested in Macron’s marriage than his politics

April 28, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File | Chinese social media users have been largely supportive of 39-year-old Emmanuel Macron’s relationship with his 64-year-old wife Brigitte

BEIJING (AFP) – China is closely following France’s presidential election, but web users appear less interested in the politics than the unusual marriage between moderate candidate Emmanuel Macron and his former teacher.

Comparisons with the characters of a popular Chinese television drama called “In the Name of the People” — which also happens to be the slogan of French far-right candidate Marine Le Pen — have flooded China’s Twitter-like Weibo.

The main villain of the ripped-from-the-headlines show, which follows the exploits of an anti-corruption squad tackling graft at the highest levels of government, is a dodgy official who marries a woman 10 years his senior in a bid for power.

Posts using a hashtag about the French politician’s much-discussed marriage — which translates into English as “Marrying his teacher 24 years his senior” — have been viewed more than nine million times on the social media site.

Despite the seemingly unfavourable comparison to a corrupt official, social media commenters have been largely supportive of 39-year-old Macron’s relationship with his 64-year-old wife Brigitte.

“Taking a high school teacher and mother as his wife, you can only call this French man a romantic,” one web user said.

“Age isn’t distance,” said another. “Please don’t make malicious assumptions about others.”

Can Le Pen beat Macron in the French election, despite losing in the first round? “The odds are very long.”

April 26, 2017

Macron should beat Le Pen in the second round of voting

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The first round is now over, and as the top two candidates with the highest vote share in the first round, Le Pen and Macron will now face off in a second-round run-off on May 7. 
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Macron is still widely expected to be able to build a broader voting base than anti-establishment Marine Le Pen. This is due to the fact that many of the first-round supporters of conservative François Fillon and far-left Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who collectively attracted 39.5 per cent of the vote, are expected to now switch to Macron.
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Le Pen’s Slim Shot at French Presidency Rests on Low Turnout
April 25, 2017, 6:00 PM EDT  — April 26, 2017, 5:08 AM EDT
  • Almost 11 million people abstained on April 23; biggest group
  • Macron leads Le Pen by 20 points ahead of May 7 runoff vote
Marine Le Pen.

Photographer: Marlene Awaad/Bloomberg

Marine Le Pen’s narrow chances of becoming president of France hinge on swathes of the electorate not showing up at the polls on May 7.

That’s the conclusion of analysts sifting through the numbers after she won 21 percent of the vote in the first round on April 23, trailing front-runner Emmanuel Macron by about 3 percentage points.

“The equation is rather simple: A voter who abstains, or casts a blank ballot, is a lost voter for Macron,” said Dominique Reynie, a professor at Sciences Po in Paris. “Le Pen has a strong, mobilized base, so what it takes for her to boost her chances is for those who say they’ll stay home to, well, stay home.”

A Le Pen win would at this point be a far greater shock than Donald Trump’s victory in the U.S. election in November. Polls have consistently shown her losing by around 20 percentage points.

But there are still millions of votes up for grabs. Of the 37 million people who voted in the first round, just under half backed Le Pen or Macron. Some 21 million voted for other candidates or cast defaced ballots, and another 10.6 million abstained. It’s already proved to be the most unpredictable French election in recent memory, marred by scandal and the shadow of terrorism.

“What I fear is a situation of widespread abstention if people think he’s won,” Socialist Party chief Jean-Christophe Cambadelis said on France2 television Wednesday morning. The party has endorsed Macron. “That would open the door to Le Pen.”

Energy Minister Segolene Royal warned of the risk of not mobilizing against Le Pen in an interview on Europe 1 radio.

Unpredictable Voters

In theory, the stars could align for Le Pen if she can pick up enough of the votes that were cast for Republican Francois Fillon, Socialist Benoit Hamon and Communist-backed Jean-Luc Melenchon, or if enough of them decided not to vote this time.

But it will be a tall order. Fillon and Hamon have already endorsed Macron. Only Melenchon has so far refused to tell his 7 million supporters what to do, though an online consultation only gave them the choice of abstaining or choosing Macron. A Harris Interactive survey conducted after the initial vote shows that more than a third of them plan to abstain. That said, 51 percent will support Macron and only 12 percent will back Le Pen.

Still, voters are in an unpredictable mood in the face of deep-seated unemployment, immigration and terrorism fears.

And so Le Pen must hope that voters who opted for the mainstream parties will take a bet on the unknown in round two.

“People will no longer be guilt-tripped or threatened by politicians into voting against Le Pen,” said Jeremie Mani, chief executive of Netino By Webhelp, a company that specializes in moderating online user comments. “There’s a new line of activists who are refusing to vote, to protest the way the government is run and the politicians on offer.”

‘Only 10 Little Points’

Le Pen is hopeful that she can erase her 20-point gap, saying she only needs a 10-percentage-point swing. Bloomberg’s composite index of second-round polls shows Macron would win by 61 percent to 39 percent.

“We can win, and I’ll tell you more, we will win,” she said on France 2 television on Monday. “Only 10 little points, trust me, it’s totally feasible.”

Another factor that could help her is the broad sense of dissatisfaction with all politicians. Some are already calling for a boycott of the entire political process via a social media campaign called #SansMoiLe7Mai, which means “Without Me on May 7.’

While Macron’s lead isn’t insurmountable, it should still be enough to see him through. Data compiled by Bloomberg show that even if the turnout drops to the 1969 low of 64 percent, Le Pen would need to more than double her party’s best showing. The average turnout since the first direct vote in 1965 is 78 percent.

“The tipping point where there will be enough absentee voters for her to win is almost off limits,” said Jean-Daniel Levy, head of Paris-based pollster Harris Interactive. “We don’t believe that she can win.”

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https://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2017-04-25/le-pen-s-slim-shot-at-french-presidency-rests-on-low-turnout

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From CNN
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(CNN) — French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen on Tuesday sought to broaden her appeal outside her party’s traditional base, declaring that she is “not the candidate” of the far-right National Front.

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“I am the candidate who has been supported by the National Front,” she said in an interview with the French TF1 network.
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Le Pen, 48, fresh off the highest-ever voting tally for the National Front, said she stepped aside from the party leadership this week to run on behalf of all French citizens.
“I am a presidential candidate as of today,” she said.
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Observers see the move as a tactical one designed to earn her votes from people who might be disposed to vote for her but who find the fascist reputation of the National Front a step too far.
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Le Pen said the final voting round on May 7 could bring a “very big surprise” — the result of “a revolt of the people against the elite,” as seen in Britain’s Brexit vote and in Trump’s election victory.
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Voters snubbed the political establishment Sunday, sending Le Pen and political novice Emmanuel Macron, 39, through to the second round of the presidential election.

Le Pen: The people want to take back power

Responding to a question from CNN’s Melissa Bell, Le Pen acknowledged parallels between her nationalist policy stances on immigration and globalization and those that propelled President Donald Trump to the White House.
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“The people are saying we want to take back power,” she said. “We want to be sovereign again.”
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Like Trump, Le Pen has risen on populist politics rooted in anger over immigration policies, globalization and middle class economic disenfranchisement.
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Many view her as a threat to the strength and unity of the political institutions that have underpinned Western countries for the past half century, notably in her opposition to the EU and pledge to leave NATO.
Echoing Trump’s “America first” mantra, Le Pen said Tuesday that she would not be influenced by the policies of other countries.
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“The only question I would be worried about is, Is it good for France and the French people?” she said.
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Le Pen has vowed to intensify the nationalist, anti-Islamist rhetoric that propelled her into the second round.
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Sunday’s first round contest was held under tight security after a terror attack in Paris on Thursday night disrupted the final day of campaigning Friday. The Paris attacks in November 2015, in which 130 people were killed, saw French President François Hollande’s popularity plunge.
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Le Pen on Tuesday reiterated her pledge to impose a temporary ban on legal immigration to France — calling the nation’s immigration policies “the best kept secret of our republic.”

Who is Marine Le Pen?

 Video: http://www.cnn.com/2017/04/25/europe/france-marine-le-pen-interview/
Who is Marine Le Pen?01:47
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She wants to slash legal immigration from 200,000 to 10,000 “entries” per year in France, and wants to see immigrants’ access to public services limited.
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“How can we take care of them?” she asked. “How are we going to house them?”
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On Sunday, the pro-European centrist Macron took first place with 24.01% of the first-round voting, while Le Pen came second on 21.30%, according to final results.

What to know about Emmanuel Macron

 Video: http://www.cnn.com/2017/04/25/europe/france-marine-le-pen-interview/
What to know about Emmanuel Macron 01:26
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Opponents have argued that Le Pen’s economic and social programs would bankrupt the country, particularly if France dropped the euro as its currency, as she has threatened.
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Le Pen’s advancement to the second round is not without precedent — her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, made it to a runoff against then-incumbent Jacques Chirac in 2002, only to suffer a devastating loss when anti-extremist voters rallied against the National Front leader.
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For many voters, the election was about a desire for change and disenchantment with a political class.
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Suspected Russia hackers ‘targeted Macron campaign’

April 25, 2017

Researchers say the hacker group Pawn Storm tried to interfere in the campaign of French presidential front-runner Emmanuel Macron. US spy agencies suspect the group of having links to Russia’s intelligence apparatus.

Symbolbild Cyberangriff (picture-alliance/dpa/MAXPPP/A. Marchi)

French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron’s political campaign was targeted by a hacker group with suspected Russian connections, a report by a cybersecurity research group said on Tuesday, bolstering previous suggestions that the Kremlin has been trying to interfere in the French elections.

Researchers with the Japan-based anti-virus firm Trend Micro said the Pawn Storm group, which is alleged to have carried out a number of high-profile hacking attacks in the West, used so-called “phishing” techniques in an attempt to steal personal data from Macron and his campaign staffers.

“Phishing” employs lookalike websites designed to fool victims into entering sensitive information such as usernames, passwords and credit card details. Trend Micro said it had recently detected four Macron-themed fake domains being created on digital infrastructure used by Pawn Storm, which is also known as Fancy Bear or APT28.

Trend Micro researcher Feike Hacquebord said that determining who was behind a spying campaign was a difficult challenge in the world of cybersecurity, but that he was almost certain.

“This is not a 100 percent confirmation, but it’s very, very likely,” he said.

Read more: France warns Russia

The Kremlin at work?

Trend Micro did not name any country as being behind Pawn Storm’s activities, but the group is widely suspected of having links to Russia’s security services.

The Kremlin is seen as a keen backer of Macron’s rival in the presidential race, Marine Le Pen, who espouses policies considered as likely to be favored by Moscow, such as France’s exit from the European Union. Macron has always staunchly advocated strengthening, rather than weakening, the bloc.

Russia has repeatedly denied accusations of trying to interfere in the French – or other – elections. On Monday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was quoted as saying that claims of the Kremlin’s attempting to influence the election outcome in France were “completely incorrect.”

Pawn Storm is also thought to be behind cyberattacks last summer on the US Democratic National Committee that were suspected to be aimed at undermining Hillary Clinton’s bid for the White House. Other suspected targets in recent months include media groups such as “The New York Times” and Al-Jazeera.
Read more: ‘Election cyberattacks threat in Germany’

Präsidentschaftswahl in Frankreich Emmanuel Macron (Getty Images/V. Isore/IP3)Macron is widely seen as likely to win the second round of elections on May 7

Attempted intrusions

The head of Macron’s digital campaign, Mounir Mahjoubi, confirmed to The Associated Press that there had been attempted intrusions, but said they had all been foiled.

Mahjoubi also confirmed that at least one of the fake sites identified by Trend Micro had been recently used as part of an attempt to steal sensitive information from campaign staffers.

An internal campaign report lists thousands of attempted cyberattacks since Macron launched his campaign last year. In February, the campaign’s secretary-general, Richard Ferrand, said the scale and nature of the intrusions indicated that they were the work of a structured group and not individual hackers.

Macron, who won the first round of France’s presidential election on Sunday, will face Le Pen in a runoff on May 7.

The French elections were carefully monitored for digital interference following suspicions that hackers backed by Moscow had attempted to influence the US electoral contest in 2016.

http://www.dw.com/en/suspected-russia-hackers-targeted-macron-campaign/a-38580848

Related:

Germany’s Federal Office for Information Security: Cyber Spies Target Germany Ahead of Election, Party Think Tanks Say

April 25, 2017

FRANKFURT — Two foundations tied to Germany’s ruling coalition parties were attacked by the same cyber spy group that targeted the campaign of French presidential favourite Emmanuel Macron, a leading cyber security expert said on Tuesday.

The group, dubbed “Pawn Storm” by security firm Trend Micro, used email phishing tricks and attempted to install malware at think tanks tied to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party and coalition partner, the Social Democratic Party (SPD), Feike Hacquebord said.

Hacquebord and other experts said the attacks, which took place in March and April, suggest Pawn Storm is seeking to influence the national elections in the two European Union powerhouses.

“I am not sure whether those foundations are the actual target. It could be that they used it as a stepping stone to target, for example, the CDU or the SPD,” Hacquebord said.

The mysterious cyber spying group, also known as Fancy Bear and APT 28, was behind data breaches of U.S. Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Merkel’s party last year, Hacquebord said.

Other security experts and former U.S. government officials link it to the Russian military intelligence directorate GRU. Hacquebord and Trend Micro have stopped short of making that connection.

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Russia has denied any involvement in the cyber attacks.

Since 2014, Merkel has pushed the European Union to maintain sanctions on Russia over its actions in eastern Ukraine and Crimea. Her coalition partners, the Social Democrats, back a more conciliatory stance towards Moscow.

“What we are seeing is kind of a replication of what happened in the United States,” David Grout, a Paris-based technical director of U.S. cyber security firm FireEye, said of technical attacks and efforts to spread fake news in Europe.

No automatic alt text available.

Hacquebord said on Monday he had found new evidence that Macron’s campaign was targeted by Pawn Storm. (https://goo.gl/8Ja2Bq)

German officials have told Reuters that politicians fear sensitive emails stolen from senior lawmakers by Russian hackers in 2015 could be released before the election to damage Merkel, who is seeking a fourth term, and her conservative party.

Trend Micro uncovered efforts to break into the accounts of CDU politicians in April and May, 2016. The BSI, Germany’s federal cyber security agency confirmed these attempts but said they were unsuccessful. New attacks in 2017 suggest renewed efforts to gain comprising data is underway, Hacquebord said.

Pawn Storm set up a fake computer server located based in Germany at kasapp.de to mount email phishing attacks against the CDU party’s Konrad Adenauer Foundation (KAS) and a server located in the Ukraine at intern-fes.de to target the SPD’s Friedrich Ebert Foundation (FES).

A KAS spokesman said BSI warned KAS in early March of “peculiarities” but that a subsequent network scan by the government cyber security agency found “nothing suspicious”.

The BSI declined to comment, as did the Friedrich Ebert Foundation.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov dismissed allegations of Russian involvement.

“We would be pleased if this investigative group sent us the information, and then we could check it,” Peskov told reporters on Tuesday. “Because for now it does not go beyond the boundaries of some anonymous people.”

Trend Micro published a 41-page report charting Pawn Storm attacks over the past two years, building on a dozen previous technical reports (https://goo.gl/WvjuLv). A timeline can be downloaded here (https://goo.gl/npY0OJ).

(Additional reporting by Peter Maushagen in Frankfurt, Andreas Rinke and Andrea Shalal in Berlin and Maria Tsvetkova in Moscow; Editing by Richard Lough)

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“We are noticing attacks against government networks on a daily basis,” Arne Schoenbohm, president of Germany’s Federal Office for Information Security (BSI), told the newspaper Welt am Sonntag.

BSI is in close contact with election officials, political parties and German federal states to discuss how to guard against cyber attacks and stands ready to react to potential attacks ahead of the elections, Mr Schoenbohm said.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/03/19/german-cybersecurity-watchdog-raises-attack-alert-level/

Does Macron really represent the future of France? Or is he the last man of the old French elite?

April 25, 2017

By Pat Buchanan

For the French establishment, Sunday’s presidential election came close to a near-death experience. As the Duke of Wellington said of Waterloo, it was a “damn near-run thing.”

Neither candidate of the two major parties that have ruled France since Charles De Gaulle even made it into the runoff, an astonishing repudiation of France’s national elite.

Marine Le Pen of the National Front ran second with 21.5 percent of the vote. Emmanuel Macron of the new party En Marche! won 23.8 percent.

Macron is a heavy favorite on May 7. The Republicans’ Francois Fillon, who got 20 percent, and the Socialists’ Benoit Hamon, who got less than 7 percent, both have urged their supporters to save France by backing Macron.

Ominously for U.S. ties, 61 percent of French voters chose Le Pen, Fillon or radical Socialist Jean-Luc Melenchon. All favor looser ties to America and repairing relations with Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

Le Pen has a mountain to climb to win, but she is clearly the favorite of the president of Russia, and perhaps of the president of the United States. Last week, Donald Trump volunteered:

“She’s the strongest on borders, and she’s the strongest on what’s been going on in France. … Whoever is the toughest on radical Islamic terrorism, and whoever is the toughest at the borders, will do well in the election.”

As an indicator of historic trends in France, Le Pen seems likely to win twice the 18 percent her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, won in 2002, when he lost in the runoff to Jacques Chirac.

The campaign between now and May 7, however, could make the Trump-Clinton race look like an altarpiece of democratic decorum.

Not only are the differences between the candidates stark, Le Pen has every incentive to attack to solidify her base and lay down a predicate for the future failure of a Macron government.

And Macron is vulnerable. He won because he is fresh, young, 39, and appealed to French youth as the anti-Le Pen. A personification of Robert Redford in “The Candidate.”

But he has no established party behind him to take over the government, and he is an ex-Rothschild banker in a populist environment where bankers are as welcome as hedge-fund managers at a Bernie Sanders rally.

He is a pro-EU, open-borders transnationalist who welcomes new immigrants and suggests that acts of Islamist terrorism may be the price France must pay for a multi-ethnic and multicultural society.

Macron was for a year economic minister to President Francois Hollande who has presided over a 10 percent unemployment rate and a growth rate that is among the most anemic in the entire European Union.

Like the reporting you see here? Sign up for free news alerts from WND.com, America’s independent news network.

He is offering corporate tax cuts and a reduction in the size of a government that consumes 56 percent of GDP, and presents himself as the “president of patriots to face the threat of nationalists.”

His campaign is as much “us vs. them” as Le Pen’s.

And elite enthusiasm for Macron seems less rooted in any anticipation of future greatness than in the desperate hope he can save the French establishment from the dreaded prospect of Marine.

But if Macron is the present, who owns the future?

Across Europe, as in France, center-left and center-right parties that have been on the scene since World War II appear to be emptying out like dying churches. The enthusiasm and energy seem to be in the new parties of left and right, of secessionism and nationalism.

The problem for those who believe the populist movements of Europe have passed their apogee, with losses in Holland, Austria and, soon, France, that the fever has broken, is that the causes of the discontent that spawned these parties are growing stronger.

What are those causes?

A growing desire by peoples everywhere to reclaim their national sovereignty and identity, and remain who they are. And the threats to ethnic and national identity are not receding, but growing.

The tide of refugees from the Middle East and Africa has not abated. Weekly, we read of hundreds drowning in sunken boats that tried to reach Europe. Thousands make it. But the assimilation of Third World peoples in Europe is not proceeding. It seems to have halted.

Second-generation Muslims who have lived all their lives in Europe are turning up among the suicide bombers and terrorists.

Fifteen years ago, al-Qaida seemed confined to Afghanistan. Now it is all over the Middle East, as is ISIS, and calls for Islamists in Europe to murder Europeans inundate social media.

The “refugee” crisis explained: Order WND’s Leo Hohmann’s book “Stealth Invasion: Muslim Conquest through Immigration and Resettlement Jihad”

As the numbers of native-born Europeans begin to fall, with their anemic fertility rates, will the aging Europeans become more magnanimous toward destitute newcomers who do not speak the national language or assimilate into the national culture, but consume its benefits?

If a referendum were held across Europe today, asking whether the mass migrations from the former colonies of Africa and the Middle East have on balance made Europe a happier and better place to live in in recent decades, what would that secret ballot reveal?

Does Macron really represent the future of France, or is he perhaps one of the last men of yesterday?
Read more at http://www.wnd.com/2017/04/is-macron-the-eus-last-best-hope/#VuMXkg19XvkX0oYE.99

 

France: Marine Le Pen steps down as Front National leader to widen appeal, concentrate on presidential bid

April 25, 2017

The move appears to be a way of embracing a wider range of voters

By Shehab Khan

Far-right candidate Marine Le Pen has announced she is temporarily stepping down as leader of the Front National (FN) to concentrate on her presidential bid

French presidential election candidate Marine Le Pen 

 French presidential election candidate Marine Le Pen  CREDIT: AFP

Ms Le Pen said  she was taking “a leave of absence” from leading the FN to focus on campaigning, in a move that appeared to be a mere formality that changes nothing in her campaign platform.The move does seem aimed as a way of embracing a wider range of voters ahead of her runoff against centrist Emmanuel Macron.

She told France 2 television: “I will feel more free and above all, above party politics, which I think is important.”

Ms Le Pen has said for months she is not, strictly speaking, an FN candidate but a candidate backed by the FN. She has long distanced herself from her maverick father Jean-Marie, the former FN leader, and in the election campaign has put neither her party’s name nor its trademark flame logo on her posters.

She has repeatedly said the policy platform on which she has stood is hers and not reflective of the FN.

“Tonight, I am no longer the president of the National Front. I am the presidential candidate,” Ms Le Pen said on French public television news.

Ms Le Pen had previously attempted to clean up the party’s racist and anti-Semitic image as she tried to appeal to voters on both the left and the right. 

Final results from the French presidential election’s first round showed that Mr Macron got nearly one million more votes than Ms Le Pen. Mr Macron collected 8.66 million votes, or 24.01 per cent, while Ms Le Pen garnered 7.68 million votes, or 21.30 per cent, according to the official final count published by the Interior Ministry.

For Ms Le Pen, it is the best result ever achieved by her FN party in a French presidential election.

Conservative candidate Francois Fillon got 20.01 per cent, and left-wing candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon, 19.58 percent of the vote. The other seven candidates were far behind.

The final round of voting for the French Presidency will take place on 7 May, and Mr Macron is currently thought to be the favourite.

Opening the battle for second-round votes, Ms Le Pen highlighted the continuing threat of Islamist militancy, which has claimed more than 230 lives in France since 2015, saying the 39-year-old Mr Macron was “to say the least, weak” on the issue.

She also said she wanted to talk to sovereignist Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, who won nearly five per cent of the first-round vote and has not said which side he would take in the next.

“His platform is extremely close to ours. Patriots should come together to fight those who promote unbridled globalisation,” she said.

Ms Le Pen has promised to suspend the EU’s open-border agreement on France’s frontiers and expel foreigners who are on the watch lists of intelligence services.

Mr Macron’s internal security programme calls for 10,000 more police officers, and 15,000 new prison places, and he has recruited a number of security experts to his entourage.

However, opinion polls over the course of the campaign have consistently found voters were more concerned about the economy and the trustworthiness of politicians.

Ms Le Pen’s campaign took aim on Monday at what they see as further weak spots: Mr Macron’s previous job as an investment banker and his role as a deregulating economy minister under outgoing President Francois Hollande.

As for Mr Hollande, he has urged people to back Mr Macron, saying Ms Le Pen, represented a “risk” for France.

Opinion polls indicate that the business-friendly Mr Macron, who has never held elected office, will take at least 61 percent of the vote against Ms Le Pen after two defeated rivals pledged to back him to thwart her eurosceptic, anti-immigrant platform.

Mr Hollande, a Socialist nearing the end of five years of unpopular rule, threw his weight behind his former economy minister in a televised address, saying Ms Le Pen’s policies were divisive and stigmatised sections of the population.

“The presence of the far right in the second round is a risk for the country,” he said. “What is at stake is France’s make-up, its unity, its membership of Europe and its place in the world.”

Agencies contributed to this report

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/marine-le-pen-front-national-stepping-down-leader-party-french-election-a7700286.html

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From the BBC

Far-right French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen has announced that she is stepping aside as leader of her National Front (FN) party.

The move comes just a day after she reached the second round of the French election, where she will face centrist Emmanuel Macron.

Ms Le Pen told French TV she needed to be above partisan considerations.

Opinion polls suggest Mr Macron is firm favourite for the second round but Ms Le Pen said: “We can win, we will win.”

The French term she used signalled that the move to step aside would be temporary.

She told France 2 that France was approaching a “decisive moment”.

Read more:

Ms Le Pen said her decision had been made out of the “profound conviction” that the president must bring together all of the French people.

“So, this evening, I am no longer the president of the National Front. I am the candidate for the French presidency,” she said.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-39696861

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Ms Le Pen had already airbrushed out her party’s name, and her own surname, from campaign posters in a bid to woo voters from the Left and Right, as well as in recent years “detoxifying”  her party’s racist, anti-Semitic image.

Sunday’s first round upturned France’s political landscape as candidates from the mainstream Left and Right were eliminated and the two finalists both claimed to be “anti-system” champions.

See map of where Le Pen votes came from in France:

The final results saw Mr Macron, an independent centrist who created his movement En Marche! (Onwards) only a year ago, take pole position on 
 24.01 per cent, with Ms Le Pen of the far-Right Front National second on 21.3 per cent.

François Fillon, the conservative runner, was a close third on 20.01 per cent, just ahead of Communist-backed Jean-Luc Mélenchon on 19.58 per cent, while Benoît Hamon, the official candidate of the ruling Socialist Party, came fifth on just 6.36 per cent.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/04/24/marine-le-pen-steps-leader-frances-front-national-bid-widen/

Scores arrested in violent Paris election night protests — “Paris isn’t Paris anymore.” — “Anti-fascist, anti-capitalist” — Anarchists?

April 24, 2017

AFP

© AFP | Anti-fascists clashed with police following the announcement of the results of the first round of the Presidential election

PARIS (AFP) – Police said Monday they arrested more than 100 people after election night unrest in Paris, with protesters hurling bottles at security forces, torching cars and smashing shop windows.

Six police officers and three protesters were slightly injured in the violence in central Paris, police said, adding that 143 people were arrested, with 29 held overnight.

Hundreds of youths gathered to protest against far-right leader Marine Le Pen and former banker Emmanuel Macron, who both qualified Sunday for the May 7 run-off in France’s two-stage presidential election.

The “anti-fascist, anti-capitalist” demonstrations were held in several French cities including central Lyon, southwestern Bordeaux and the western cities of Nantes and Rennes.

Macron faces biggest challenge yet in battle with Le Pen — “It’s more complicated than it looks – a new campaign is starting.”

April 24, 2017

AFP and Reuters

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© Eric Feferberg / Joël Saget / AFP | Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen.

Video by Claire WILLIAMS

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2017-04-24

Emmanuel Macron, little known to the French public just three years ago, is now favourite to win the country’s presidency after topping Sunday’s first round vote, but faces his biggest challenge yet as he takes on far-right rival Marine Le Pen.

According to an almost-complete count, Macron beat Le Pen by around 24 percent to 22 percent in Sunday’s first-round of voting. The two will now face off in the decisive second round in two weeks time.

It was a huge triumph for a 39-year-old never elected to public office who was virtually unknown in France before becoming economy minister three years ago, and only founded his political movement last year.

Macron is widely expected to beat Le Pen with ease in the second round as voters from the left and right rally to prevent the National Front leader from becoming president.

Image may contain: 2 people, closeup

‘A new campaign is starting’

But some analysts warn his task may be more difficult than it appears at first sight.

“It’s more complicated than it looks – a new campaign is starting,” said Francois Miquet-Marty of pollster Viavoice.

“Marine Le Pen is going to frame this as a face-off between Emmanuel Macron, the candidate of the globalised elite, and herself as the people’s candidate,” he said. “She has a line of attack that can hit the bullseye.”

A former investment banker, Macron was appointed an economic adviser by Socialist president Francois Hollande before becoming economy minister in 2014. He is known for his pro-business and pro-European views.

On Sunday night, Le Pen and her allies dismissed Macron as the candidate of a dying establishment: “Change is obviously not going to come from the heir of Francois Hollande and his disastrous mandate of failures,” she told supporters.

WHO IS FRENCH PRESIDENTIAL FAVOURITE EMMANUEL MACRON?
 

Miquet-Marty said Macron would “need a more offensive approach, and to distill the message that a Macron presidency would be more peaceful than a Le Pen one”.

Another problem facing Macron is that he needs a victory against Le Pen big enough to enlist popular figures from established parties in the parliamentary election that follows in June.

Analysts say that if Macron fails to win more than 60 percent in the second round, he may find it hard to reassure a divided country that he has what it takes to reform the eurozone’s second-largest economy, which is only starting to pick up speed after five years of anaemic growth.

Then, in turn, he might struggle to turn his promise to transcend traditional party divides into a working majority for his En Marche! (Onwards!) movement in the parliamentary election, six weeks later.

‘Fragmented’

Perhaps worryingly for the centrist independent, Macron’s total vote count on Sunday was the lowest score of any first-round winner since 2002.

Then, it was Jacques Chirac who scored only 20 percent – but benefited from a joint effort by all mainstream parties to block his National Front challenger, Le Pen’s father Jean-Marie, to secure a crushing win in the runoff by 82 percent to 18.

This time, the mainstream conservatives and Socialists also quickly urged their supporters to vote to block Marine Le Pen.

But in 2017, the endorsements of conservatives and Socialists combined account for only 26 percent of votes.

And those endorsements from mainstream parties could also work against Macron in a country where the divide between ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ has been pushing up support year after year for Le Pen’s message that only she can defend French workers’ jobs and rights.

In his favour, analysts say, is the fact that 35 percent of voters thought Macron was the best candidate to put the French economy on the right track, against only 20 percent for Le Pen, according to a recent Odoxa poll.

Meanwhile Le Pen’s anti-euro stance, which is rejected by many of her own supporters, as well as a majority of voters, offers him a promising line of attack.

Many analysts are now turning their attention beyond his expected victory in the second round to ask whether he can gather the political muscle to enact his programme.

“His parliamentary majority could be extremely fragmented. We could find ourselves in a situation similar to what happened under the Fourth Republic, with an unstable majority,” said political analysts Philippe Cossalter of Sarre University.

Macron’s answer is that he has spent the last year proving the pundits wrong, and will do so again.

“They’re taking the French for idiots,” he said at a recent rally. “The French are consistent. That’s why, six weeks later, they will give us a majority to govern and legislate.”

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)

France’s Election: Macron-Le Pen though to run-off on May 7

April 23, 2017

BBC News

French presidential candidates Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron

The two face a run-off next month. AFP/EPA

The centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-right leader Marine Le Pen have won the first round of voting in French presidential elections, projected results say.

Mr Macron won 23.7%, while Ms Le Pen won 21.7%, French TV says.

The two saw off a strong challenge from centre-right François Fillon the hard-left Jean-Luc Mélenchon, according to the projections.

The pair now face a run-off vote on 7 May.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-39686993