Posts Tagged ‘French election’

Russia used Facebook to try to spy on Macron campaign – sources

July 27, 2017

Reuters

By Joseph Menn

July 27, 2017

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Russian intelligence agents attempted to spy on President Emmanuel Macron’s election campaign earlier this year by creating phony Facebook personas, according to a U.S. congressman and two other people briefed on the effort.

About two dozen Facebook accounts were created to conduct surveillance on Macron campaign officials and others close to the centrist former financier as he sought to defeat far-right nationalist Marine Le Pen and other opponents in the two-round election, the sources said. Macron won in a landslide in May.

Facebook said in April it had taken action against fake accounts that were spreading misinformation about the French election. But the effort to infiltrate the social networks of Macron officials has not previously been reported.

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Russia has repeatedly denied interfering in the French election by hacking and leaking emails and documents. U.S. intelligence agencies told Reuters in May that hackers with connections to the Russian government were involved, but they did not have conclusive evidence that the Kremlin ordered the hacking.

Facebook confirmed to Reuters that it had detected spying accounts in France and deactivated them. It credited a combination of improved automated detection and stepped-up human efforts to find sophisticated attacks.

Company officials briefed congressional committee members and staff, among others, about their findings. People involved in the conversations also said the number of Facebook accounts suspended in France for promoting propaganda or spam – much of it related to the election – had climbed to 70,000, a big jump from the 30,000 account closures the company disclosed in April.

Facebook did not dispute the figure.

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Seeking Friends of Friends

The spying campaign included Russian agents posing as friends of friends of Macron associates and trying to glean personal information from them, according to the U.S. congressman and two others briefed on the matter.

Facebook employees noticed the efforts during the first round of the presidential election and traced them to tools used in the past by Russia’s GRU military intelligence unit, said the people, who spoke on condition they not be named because they were discussing sensitive government and private intelligence.

Facebook told American officials that it did not believe the spies burrowed deep enough to get the targets to download malicious software or give away their login information, which they believe may have been the goal of the operation.

The same GRU unit, dubbed Fancy Bear or APT 28 in the cybersecurity industry, has been blamed for hacking the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 U.S. presidential election and many other political targets. The GRU did not respond to a request for comment.

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Fancy Bear

Email accounts belonging to Macron campaign officials were hacked and their contents dumped online in the final days of the runoff between Macron and Le Pen.

French law enforcement and intelligence officials have not publicly accused anyone of the campaign attacks.

Mounir Mahjoubi, who was digital director of Macron’s political movement, En Marche, and is now a junior minister for digital issues in his government, told Reuters in May that some security experts blamed the GRU specifically, though they had no proof.

Mahjoubi and En Marche declined to comment.

There are few publicly known examples of sophisticated social media spying efforts. In 2015, Britain’s domestic security service, MI5, warned that hostile powers were using LinkedIn to connect with and try to recruit government workers.

The social media and networking companies themselves rarely comment on such operations when discovered.

Facebook, facing mounting pressure from governments around the world to control “fake news’ and propaganda on the service, took a step toward openness with a report in April on what it termed “information operations.”

The bulk of that document discussed so-called influence operations, which included “amplifier” accounts that spread links to slanted or false news stories in order to influence public opinion.

Reporting by Joseph Menn in San Francisco; Additional reporting by Michel Rose in Paris and Jack Stubbs in Moscow.; Editing by Jonathan Weber and Ross Colvin

France: Le Pen wins parliamentary seat but French far-right party stalls

June 19, 2017

AFP

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© AFP

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2017-06-19

France’s far-right leader Marine Le Pen won a seat in parliament for the first time on Sunday, but it was a bittersweet victory that masked an underwhelming election cycle for her National Front (FN) party.

The feisty 48-year-old, who lost by a 20-point margin to Emmanuel Macron in May’s presidential run-off, won handily in her northern fiefdom of Hénin-Beaumont, a depressed former mining town, with 58.6 percent of the vote.

But her anti-EU, anti-immigration FN failed to capitalise on the populist wave that helped propel Donald Trump to the US presidency and spurred Britain’s vote to leave the European Union.

Updated French parliamentary results. Macron’s LRM: 359/577 seats; big but not crushing majority. Le Pen + Mélenchon elected; Philippot not

Le Pen’s party won eight seats in the 577-seat National Assembly, dashing her one-time hopes of emerging as the main opposition to Macron’s La République en Marche! (LREM) party.

The final results also put her seven seats short of forming her own so-called parliamentary group, which would have given it a role in setting the parliamentary agenda as well as influential committee positions.

Macron’s LREM and its centrist ally MoDem (Democratic Movement) swept to a large majority with 351 seats, a figure that was nevertheless smaller than opinion poll forecasts before the vote.

Former bullfighter fails

Le Pen, like radical left leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon, said record low turnout at around 44 percent cast doubt on LREM’s legitimacy.

In late April, after Le Pen qualified to face off with Macron, Bruno Jeanbart of the OpinionWay polling institute said the FN could hope to win between 20 and 50 seats.

In the presidential election, Le Pen won more than 50 percent of votes in her head-to-head with Macron in 45 voting districts and drew a total of 10.7 million votes, a historic high for the far-right party.

WANTS TO FIX A ‘BAD SYSTEM’

The FN has two lawmakers in the outgoing parliament, one of whom will not return.

The other incumbent, Gillard Collard, won by just 123 votes over a former bullfighter, Marie Sara, one of dozens of new MPs in the LREM party with no prior political experience.

Senior FN figure Florian Philippot, the architect of the FN’s policies to scrap the euro common currency, lost in the former industrial area of Moselle in eastern France.

Emmanuelle Ménard, the wife of Béziers Mayor Robert Ménard, secured a parliamentary seat with the support of the FN. Her husband, a former press freedom activist, has courted controversy by implementing an anti-immigrant agenda in the southern city since 2014.

Leaving EU parliament

Le Pen fought for the same seat in 2012, losing by 118 votes to the Socialist Philippe Kemel, who was eliminated this year in the first round of the parliamentary election last Sunday.

Le Pen complained last weekend that the record low first-round turnout raised questions over France’s two-round first-past-the-post system that favours larger parties.

Correction: if FN gets 6 seats it will NOT be a record. Under a PR vote system in 1985 the FN led by Jean-Marie Le Pen had 35 seats.

On Sunday she said it was “scandalous” that the FN could not have a group in parliament.

In 1986, under a proportional representation system, the FN, then led by her father Jean-Marie Le Pen, won 35 seats.

The FN leader will now have to abandon her seat in the European Parliament, where her party is under several investigations in alleged funding scandals.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

Macron Aims to Consolidate Power as France Elects Parliament

June 11, 2017

PARIS — French voters cast their ballots on Sunday in the first round of a parliamentary election expected to give centrist President Emmanuel Macron the strong majority needed to carry out the far-reaching economic and social reforms he promises.

The vote to elect the lower house’s 577 members comes a month after Macron, a 39-year-old former banker with little political experience, defied the odds to win the presidency of the euro zone’s second-largest economy.

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Electoral posters of a candidate in the parliamentary elections, in Marseille, France. AP Photo/Claude Paris

If, as polls project, Macron and his fledgling party win a commanding majority in next week’s second round, it will be another blow for the mainstream parties on the right and left which failed to get a candidate into the presidential run-off.

“We want a big majority to be able to act and transform France over the next five years,” Mounir Mahjoubi, a tech entrepreneur running under Macron’s Republic On The Move (LREM) banner told Reuters as he canvassed support in his northern Paris constituency ahead of the vote.

Opinion polls forecast LREM and its center-right Modem allies will win at least 30 percent of votes on Sunday.

The conservative The Republicans party and its allies trail with about 20 percent, ahead of the far-right National Front on about 17 percent.

Such an outcome would transform into a landslide majority in the second round, the opinion polls show.

While predicting the outcome can be tricky with 7,882 candidates vying for parliament’s seats, even LREM’s rivals have been saying they expect Macron to secure a majority.

Their strategy has been to urge voters to make sure the opposition will be big enough to have some clout in parliament. “We shouldn’t have a monopolistic party,” former prime minister Bernard Cazeneuve, a Socialist, told Reuters.

MACRON OVERHAUL

The survival of the Socialist Party, which ruled France for the past five years but is forecast to get just 15 to 30 seats, is at stake, as is the unity of The Republicans. Some key figures from both parties have rallied behind Macron.

The National Front, reeling from a worse than expected score for chief Marine Le Pen in the presidential election, could miss its target to get enough lawmakers to form a parliamentary group. It is expected though to improve on the two deputies it had in the previous legislature.

In a country with unemployment hovering near 10 percent and at risk of breaking its public deficit commitments, Macron was elected president in May on pledges to overhaul labor rules to make hiring and firing easier, cut corporate tax and invest billions in areas including job training and renewable energy.

“If we really want him to change things he needs a majority,” 67-year-old voter Irena Plewa, a pensioner, said at a bustling Paris food market.

Polling stations close at 1800 (1600 GMT) in smaller cities and two hours later in Paris and other big cities. Results will come in slowly, alongside pollsters’ estimates of the results.

Very few lawmakers are expected to be elected directly in the first round. To win, a candidate needs more than half of the votes cast and they must account for at least a quarter of the registered voters.

With many fresh faces among the candidates, a political landscape divided among many forces from the far-left to the far-right, and abstention predicted to be at over 40 percent, that is unlikely to happen in many constituencies.

(Additional reporting by Antony Paone and Michaela Cabrera; writing by Ingrid Melander; editing by Richard Lough and David Clarke)

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French voters head to the polls to elect new parliament

June 11, 2017

AFP

© Fred Payet, AFP | People go to polls in Noumea, New Caledonia island on June 11, 2017 to choose members of the French National Assembly, the country’s lower house of parliament, in the first round of country’s legislative elections.

Video by Josh VARDEY , Richelle HARRISON PLESSE

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2017-06-11

French voters go to the polls on Sunday in the first round of parliamentary elections with President Emmanuel Macron’s party appearing well-placed to gain a commanding majority.

Macron has enjoyed a smooth start in the five weeks since he beat far-right candidate Marine Le Pen to become France’s youngest-ever president, naming a cabinet that crosses left-right lines and making a big impression at international summits.

His centrist Republique en Marche (Republic on the Move, REM) party, which he only founded in April 2016 as a platform for his presidential bid, now needs a clear majority in the National Assembly for him to push through the reforms he has promised.

WHIRLWIND FRANCE ELECTION HEADS FOR ‘THIRD ROUND’

A host of opinion polls show Macron’s party could take around 30 percent of the vote on Sunday, putting it in pole position to secure an absolute majority in the second round a week later.

That could translate to as many as 400 seats in the 577-seat chamber. REM has already had a boost after its candidates came first in 10 of the 11 French overseas constituencies that voted before the mainland.

If no candidate wins over 50 percent in the first round, the two top-placed go into the second round — as well as any candidate who won the votes of over 12.5 percent of the electorate.

Polling stations open at 8:00 am (0600 GMT) and close in the largest cities at 8:00 pm (1800 GMT).

More than 50,000 police will be on patrol in a country still under a state of emergency following a wave of attacks that have killed more than 230 people since 2015.

In the latest incident, which took place on Tuesday, a 40-year-old self-radicalised Algerian was shot and wounded after attacking a policeman with a hammer outside Paris’ Notre Dame cathedral.

Breaking the mould

French voters have traditionally rallied behind their new leader in the legislative elections that follow the presidential ballot.

Macron’s predecessors Francois Hollande in 2012, Nicolas Sarkozy in 2007 and Jacques Chirac in 2002 all won outright majorities. Unlike Macron, however, they all came from long-established parties.

REM reflects the president’s desire for a new brand of politics. Initially dismissed by Macron’s opponents as a movement of young activists without any real roots, it will field 530 candidates on Sunday.

In a bid to renew the political scene, many have never stood for office before, such as Marie Sara, a rare female bullfighter, who is taking on a senior member of Le Pen’s National Front in southern France, Gilbert Collard.

Cleaning up politics

Macron has banned all REM candidates from employing family members if elected and they must not perform consultancy work while lawmakers.

The edicts follow the scandal that sunk the presidential chances of Francois Fillon, candidate for the rightwing Republicans party, who is facing criminal charges for paying his wife Penelope more than 900,000 euros ($1.0 million) as his parliamentary assistant.

Fillon denies the charges.

Given Macron’s attempts to clean up French politics, he faced embarrassment on Friday when his small centrist ally, the MoDem party, was placed under preliminary investigation on suspicion of employing fake parliamentary assistants at the European Parliament.

One of Macron’s ministers, Richard Ferrand, is also being probed over a property deal involving his wife.

With the political tide turning against the main parties of left and right, they have warned that a landslide could be bad for democracy.

“I don’t think it would be healthy for the democratic debate over the next five years,” said Francois Baroin, who is leading the Republicans as they try to bounce back from Fillon’s failure in the presidential election.

The Socialists of former president Hollande fear heavy losses after a disastrous performance in the presidential election.

Le Pen defiant

Le Pen’s party meanwhile looks set to struggle to win 15 seats nationally, a score that would represent another deep disappointment after she was soundly beaten by Macron.

But Le Pen remains defiant, telling AFP this week that with other parties likely to agree to work with Macron, “we will be the only opposition force.”

Macron has appealed to voters to give him a strong mandate to overhaul the labour market whose rigid rules on hiring and firing are blamed by many economists for preventing growth.

The president was economy minister in the previous Socialist government that began introducing the reforms, sparking mass demonstrations in 2016 that lasted for months.

(AFP)

Macron, Putin Hold Talks Amid Strained U.S.-European Ties

May 29, 2017

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The talks at Versailles are the French president’s first with the Russian leader since winning election earlier this month

Alongside French President Emmanuel Macron, Russian President Vladimir Putin waves upon his arrival at the Versailles Palace on Monday.

Alongside French President Emmanuel Macron, Russian President Vladimir Putin waves upon his arrival at the Versailles Palace on Monday. PHOTO: STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES
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VERSAILLES, France—French President Emmanuel Macron and his counterpart Vladimir Putin of Russia strained Monday to turn the page on allegations of Russian interference in France’s elections well as their differences over Syria, with the French leader describing the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime as a “red line.”

The newly elected French leader was hosting Mr. Putin at the Palace of Versailles to mark 300 years of Franco-Russian diplomacy that began under Russian Czar Peter the Great.

Heightened tensions with Moscow loomed over the meeting as Mr. Macron and other European leaders have begun to weigh a geopolitical landscape defined by increasingly fragile trans-Atlantic relations. Last week U.S. President Donald Trump didn’t reaffirm the principle of mutual defense at the heart of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, to which the U.S. and 27 other nations belong. That prompted German Chancellor Angela Merkel to say this weekend it was time to “really take our fate into our own hands.’’

“It was an extremely frank, direct conversation,” Mr. Macron said in a joint news conference with Mr. Putin after their talks.

Any fissures in the NATO alliance provide Mr. Putin with an opening to drive a lasting wedge between the U.S. and its allies on a range of foreign policy fronts. Europe has often strained to show unity on defense and foreign policy, a struggle that risks being exacerbated without full-throated security assurances from the U.S. and with the looming departure of the U.K. from the European Union.

On Monday, Mr. Macron stood firm on the European Union’s sanctions on Russia over its annexation of Crimea as well as France’s opposition to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad whom the West has accused of carrying out chemical attacks against his own people.

“There is a very clear red line on our side,” Mr. Macron said. “The use of chemical weapons by anyone—so any use of chemical weapons—will meet with retaliation and an immediate response.”

Mr. Macron also said reopening France’s embassy in Damascus was “not my priority.”

Mr. Putin said attacks on the Assad regime would only strengthen militant groups like Islamic State.

“It is impossible to combat the terrorist threat by destroying the statehood of countries that already suffer from internal problems,” Mr. Putin said.

The Macron-Putin meeting was also closely watched for signs of personal animus between the two leaders. Mr. Putin irked Mr. Macron’s presidential campaign by hosting his rival, National Front leader Marine Le Pen, during a visit to Russia.

“If Ms. Le pen asked to meet, why should we turn her down?” Mr. Putin said as Mr. Macron looked on.

The Russian leader also dismissed allegations the Macron campaign made that Kremlin-backed hackers and media outlets interfered in France’s presidential election. Mr. Macron’s party En Marche said in February its website was targeted by thousands of hacking attempts and that Kremlin controlled outlets spread defamatory rumors about the candidate in an attempt to destabilize the campaign. In the final hours of official campaigning, Mr. Macron’s party said it was hacked when thousands of emails and documents purportedly from the campaign were leaked on the internet.

“They say Russian hackers may have interfered,” Mr. Putin said, referring to the Macron campaign. “Dear colleagues, how can you comment on such things?”

The remarks belied initial attempts by both leaders to play down the alleged interference. Mr. Macron he did not discuss the issue with Mr. Putin behind closed doors because he wanted to be “pragmatic.”

That resolve wavered when a Russian journalist asked Mr. Macron why his campaign banned Russia Today and Sputnik from its headquarters.

“Russia Today and Sputnik did not behave like press organizations or journalists, they behaved like organization of influence, of propaganda, and false propaganda,” he said.

Write to Stacy Meichtry at stacy.meichtry@wsj.com and William Horobin at William.Horobin@wsj.com

https://www.wsj.com/articles/macron-putin-hold-talks-amid-strained-u-s-european-ties-1496062884?mod=e2tw&tesla=y

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Putin Spurns Allegations That Russia Meddled in Foreign Elections

May 29, 2017

VERSAILLES, France — Russian President Vladimir Putin, who held his first meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday, said there was nothing to discuss about allegations of Moscow’s meddling in foreign elections, and that Macron had not raised this issue.

By meeting Macron’s presidential election rival Marine Le Pen in Moscow in March, the Kremlin did not try to influence the vote, Putin told a joint news briefing with Macron.

Referring to Le Pen’s visit, Putin said he saw nothing wrong in Moscow not pushing away foreign politicians seeking good relations with Russia. If she sought a meeting, why should Russia refuse her, Putin asked.

(Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin; Writing by Dmitry Solovyov; Editing by Christian Lowe)

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White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer at a news conference at the White House on May 18. Replacing Mr. Spicer is one of the changes under discussion.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer at a news conference at the White House on May 18. Replacing Mr. Spicer is one of the changes under discussion. PHOTO: CARLOS BARRIA/REUTERS
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Russia’s meddling in other nations’ elections is nothing new. Just ask the Europeans
http://www.latimes.com/world/europe/la-fg-russia-election-meddling-20170330-story.html

Theresa May says she needs a mandate as big as Macron’s

May 8, 2017

Emmanuel Macron was elected French president this weekend

By Jon Stone Political Correspondent

The Independent

PA WIRE/PA IMAGES

Theresa May has asked voters to give her an electoral mandate as big as French president-elect Emmanuel Macron’s, in order to make it easier for her to negotiate Brexit.

The Prime Minister said on Monday morning that she needed an “equally strong mandate” to give her an “equally strong negotiating position”.

“Yesterday a new French president was elected. He was elected with a strong mandate which he can take as as strong position into the negotiations,” she said at an event in Harrow.

“The UK we need to ensue we have an equally strong mandate and an equally strong negotiating position.”

Ms May added that “every vote for me and my team will strengthen my hand in those Brexit negotiations”.

Mr Macron has said he will be “pretty tough” in Brexit negotiations and that his goal will be “to preserve the rest of the European Union and not to convey the message that you can decide to leave without any consequences”.

In his election manifesto he also described Brexit as a “crime” that would deliver Britain to “servitude”.

He beat far-right politician Marine Le Pen by 66.10 per cent o the vote to 33.90 per cent in a run-off this weekend.

Read the rest:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/theresa-may-macron-mandate-brexit-latest-french-elections-results-uk-snap-election-june-date-a7724001.html

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Speaking in Harrow, north west London, this morning, May said despite her poll lead over Jeremy Corbyn the Conservatives could not take “a single thing for granted”.

The prime minister, speaking in front of signs that said ‘Theresa May’s Team’ to emphasise the almost presidential campaign message she has adopted, told Tory activists:

“Yesterday a new French president was elected. He was elected with a strong mandate which he can take as as strong position into the negotiations. The UK we need to ensue we have an equally strong mandate and an equally strong negotiating position.”

May said “every vote for me and my team will strengthen my hand in those Brexit negotiations”.

It would be extraordinary for May to win 66% of the vote on June 8. In 2015, David Cameron won a majority with 36.9% of the vote. Tony Blair’s 1997 landslide was achieved with 43.2%.

May said voting for Corbyn was a “risk”. She said: “Try to picture him at that negotiating table with the collective might of the European Commission and 27 other EU countries against him.”

In a phone call with Macron, May “briefly” discussed Brexit and the prime minister “reiterated that the UK wants a strong partnership”, Downing Street said.

Macron – who at 39 will become France’s youngest president – dashed Ms Le Pen’s nationalist hopes with his pro-European stance and moderate policies.

The new French president is no fan of Brexit. In his election manifesto he described the UK’s decision to leave the EU as a “crime” that will plunge Britain into “servitude”.

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/theresa-may-asks-voters-to-give-her-as-big-a-mandate-as-emmanuel-macron_uk_5910455ae4b0104c73503b82

French election: Macron ‘defeats Le Pen to become president’

May 7, 2017

BBC News

Centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron has decisively won the French presidential election, projected results say.

Mr Macron defeated far-right candidate Marine Le Pen by about 65.5% to 34.5% to become, at 39, the country’s youngest president, the results show.

Mr Macron will also become the first president from outside the two traditional main parties since the modern republic’s foundation in 1958.

He said that a “new chapter of hope and confidence is opening”.

Mr Macron’s supporters gathered to celebrate in central Paris after the bitterly fought election concluded on Sunday amid massive security.

Live updates: France elects Macron

The Macron team said that the new president had had a “cordial” telephone conversation with Ms Le Pen.

In a speech she thanked the 11 million people who had voted for her. She said the election had shown a division between “patriots and globalists” and called for the emergence of a new political force.

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Ms Le Pen said her National Front party needed to renew itself and that she would start the “deep transformation of our movement”, vowing to lead it into upcoming parliamentary elections.

She also said she had wished Mr Macron success in tackling the “huge challenges” facing him.

President François Hollande congratulated Mr Macron and said the result showed the French people wanted to unite around the “values of the republic”.

The BBC’s Hugh Schofield in Paris says this is the most remarkable success story of how a man who three years ago was utterly unknown to the French public, through sheer self-belief, energy – and connections – forged a political movement that has trounced all the established French political parties.

Read more:

Five reasons why Macron won

France’s ambitious man ‘on the move’

Macron’s irresistible charm

Who will Macron pick for PM?

What does Mr Macron stand for?

He is a liberal centrist, pro-business and a strong supporter of the European Union.

He left the Socialist government of President François Hollande last August to form his new movement – En Marche – saying it was neither left nor right wing.

Emmanuel Macron’s unconventional route to political stardom in France

His campaign pledges included a 120,000 reduction in public-sector jobs, a cut in public spending by €60bn (£50bn; $65bn), and a lowering of the unemployment rate to below 7%.

He vowed to ease labour laws and give new protections to the self-employed.

Mr Macron also stood on a pro-EU platform, in stark contrast to his opponent.

Will his charm work? BBC’s Hugh Schofield in Paris

Emmanuel Macron in Le Touquet

Often with Emmanuel Macron one fears that (in a way that is very French) it is words that are doing his work. Words that are bridging the divides; words that are flattering his opponents; words that create the devotion that, among some, he inspires.

In the campaign it became a joke among journalists how often his answers included the words “au meme temps” (at the same time). It was his way of marrying everything and its opposite, of reconciling every contradiction.

He got away with it because he is who he is.

But in the real life of running a fractious, angry, divided country – will his words have the same effect? Will his solitary self-belief create the structures of political support which he needs in the rough-and-tumble of government? Will his charm still work?

Read more from Hugh

What will be his immediate difficulties?

Well, his En Marche grouping has no seats in parliament at all.

Legislative elections follow on quickly from the presidential poll – on 11 and 18 June.

En Marche will contest the elections as a party but Mr Macron may find himself needing to pull together a coalition to govern effectively.

Although his presidential candidacy had support from other political parties, much of it stemmed from the need to defeat Ms Le Pen.

He will need to win over the abstainers and those who are sceptical about his political vision. Left-wing voters in particular felt disenfranchised by the choice of the final two candidates.

Mr Macron will also need to tackle the fallout from a hacking attack on Friday, the final day of campaigning, when a trove of documents relating to his campaign, said to include both genuine and fake documents, was released online.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-39839349

French Election: Turnout and Enthusiasm Is Low, Poll Watchers Say

May 7, 2017

French officials report a midday dip in turnout for the presidential runoff from 2012. Voters are choosing five years under former Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron or the anti-EU and anti-immigrant Marine Le Pen.

Frankreich Präsidentschaftswahl in Vaulx-en-Velin (Reuters/E. Foudrot)

Some eligible voters in France appear to be staying home rather than turning out to choose between former Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron and the anti-immigrant Marine Le Pen. By midday, the Interior Ministry had reported a turnout rate of 28.2 percent, compared with a comparable figure of 30.7 percent at the same time during the last presidential runoff, in 2012, and 34.1 percent in 2007.

The pollster Odoxa expects just 75 percent of 47.6 million eligible voters to turn out – and 53 percent say they are more motivated to torpedo their less-preferred candidate than to elect the other. And Macron’s supporters are especially ambivalent about their candidate. Though Macron has a 25-point margin in many opinion polls, 57 percent of people who intend to vote for the banker-cum-politician will do so defensively, while a full 56 percent of likely Le Pen voters truly back the far-right political scion.

“The expected victory … wouldn’t be a blank check for Emmanuel Macron,” according to Odoxa. “A huge majority will not be backing him wholeheartedly.”

A low turnout does not necessarily favor Le Pen. The last time fewer than 30 percent of voters had cast ballots by midday was in the 2002 presidential runoff, when just 26.2 percent had turned out by noon. Just under 80 percent of people eligible ultimately voted in that election, and they overwhelming sent Le Pen’s father, Jean-Marie, packing: The National Front received just 18 percent.

Gendarmerie: 26,000 gendarmes (military police), 3,000 reservists deployed to secure polling stations across the French countryside https://twitter.com/Gendarmerie/status/861166783239213056 

‘Heavy consequences’

For the first time, neither of France’s two traditional parties has a candidate in the final round of the presidential election. In the wake of the UK’s Brexit vote last summer and the US’s election of Donald Trump in November, some have portrayed France’s presidential runoff as a do-or-die day for centrist European democracy.

President Francois Hollande, who had decided not to run again in December, dutifully voted in central France on Sunday. Hollande, a Socialist who plucked Macron from virtual obscurity to name him economy minister in 2014, said voting “is always an important, significant act, heavy with heavy consequences.”

Voters rewarded Le Pen’s xenophobic campaign with 21 percent in the first round. Just before she voted Sunday in her stronghold of Henin-Beaumont, topless activists climbed scaffolding to unfurl a banner on a church: “Power for Marine, despair for Marianne” – referring to France’s national symbol, a feminization of liberty and reason.

Macron, who received 24 percent of the first-round vote, voted near his holiday home in the northern seaside resort of Le Touquet.

http://www.dw.com/en/turnout-down-as-french-hold-noses-for-macron-or-le-pen/a-38741424

Macron and Le Pen Face Off in French Election Pitting Vision of Globalization Against Nationalism

May 7, 2017

Runoff vote comes after establishment parties were knocked out in first round

Image may contain: 2 people, closeup

Video:
https://www.wsj.com/articles/macron-and-le-pen-face-off-in-french-election-pitting-vision-of-globalization-against-nationalism-1494136806

Updated May 7, 2017 6:35 a.m. ET

 

PARIS—The French headed to the polls Sunday for the deciding round of a presidential election that has sidelined mainstream parties and redrawn French politics as a contest between globalists and nationalists.

After candidates from the parties that long governed France were knocked out in the first round on April 23, the runoff pits Marine Le Pen, leader of the anti-immigration National Front, against Emmanuel Macron, a political neophyte who founded his pro-European Union party, En Marche, barely a year ago.

Polls predict Mr. Macron will win the vote with a 20-percentage-point margin, a result that would come as a relief to defenders of the EU after a long streak of advances by nationalist leaders on the continent.

Even if she loses with 40%, however, Ms. Le Pen could still seek to build on her results—expected to be the best for a far-right presidential candidate in modern French history—to become a powerful opposition leader, and further promote her protectionist ideas.

“Marine Le Pen at 40% across France in a presidential election would already be colossal,” said Jérôme Fourquet, an analyst at polling agency IFOP.

Macron vs. Le Pen in the PollsFrench poll respondents have favored Emmanuel Macron over Marine Le Pen sinceFebruary when asked whom they’d favor if the two ended up in a runoff, as they now have.
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The two candidates are offering to steer France in polar-opposite directions. Ms. Le Pen pledges to extricate the country from the EU and the euro, shutting borders to immigrants and cheap imports she says harm the domestic economy. Mr. Macron says France should embrace the EU and not fear globalization, vowing unpopular overhauls of labor laws to make the country more competitive.

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