Posts Tagged ‘Le Pen’

Les Patriotes: How Le Pen’s ex-protégé hopes to win over French far right

December 18, 2017

AFP

© Lionel Bonaventure, AFP | Florian Philippot, the president of French nationalist party Les Patriotes, inaugurates his party’s headquarters in northern Paris on December 18, 2017

Text by Louise NORDSTROM 

Latest update : 2017-12-18

For years, Florian Philippot was Marine Le Pen’s protégé, helping her rebrand France’s hardline National Front into a populist party. But bitter infighting over Europe saw him cut all ties and launch his own far-right alternative: Les Patriotes.

On Monday morning, 36-year-old Philippot – Le Pen’s former vice president and most trusted adviser – inaugurated the headquarters of Les Patriotes (The Patriots), in Saint-Ouen, in northern Paris. The move comes just three months after Philippot claims he was more or less pushed out of the National Front (FN) after bitter disputes with Le Pen over whether the party ought to return to its more hardline, anti-immigrant past, or continue to push its more populist direction, focusing instead on economic nationalism.

 

Blamed for election loss

But what started out as an in-party movement after Le Pen began to waver on the party’s anti-euro stance during last spring’s presidential election, has in six short months morphed into a political party that now hopes to take a big bite out of Le Pen’s electorate, vowing to do “The best for France,” by not only quitting the euro, but also the European Union in a so-called “Frexit”. Critics, however, say that he is about to commit political suicide, presenting nothing but a watered-down version of the FN’s political agenda on most other, non-EU-related issues.

Philippot, whose anti-euro sentiment had long irritated many FN members and which bore the brunt of the blame for Le Pen’s bitter loss to centrist Emmanuel Macron in the presidential run-off, announced his departure from the FN in September after being stripped of his role as the party’s chief of strategy and communication following his refusal to step down from the Les Patriotes movement. “I have no desire to be ridiculed, and I have no desire to do nothing. And so, of course, I’m leaving the National Front,” he announced on French broadcaster France 2, shortly after which he then took the first steps towards transforming his movement into a political party.

His former mentor, Le Pen, barely smirked at his ambitions, telling France’s parliamentary channel LCP later the same day that: “All those who have taken that route have led a solitary adventure and ended up disappearing… I think I can say that this will be the case also for Florian.”

‘Frexit’

In October, Philippot, who still holds a seat in the European Parliament, unveiled a 26-point political charter for his new party, with a “Frexit” and pulling out of the European single currency as being the No. 1 priorities. The party also advocates referendums by popular initiative, removing the upper-house Senate and “heavily reducing” immigration. Despite using a lighter anti-immigration rhetoric than the FN, Sylvain Crépon, a sociologist and French far-right expert at the Université de Tours, said there is little difference between the two parties.

“The only real difference between Les Patriotes and the FN is that Les Patriotes want out of the euro and the EU, and the FN doesn’t,” Crépon told FRANCE 24. “Of course, Les Patriotes don’t want to be considered as being far right; no far right or extreme right party does, but according to me they are still very close to being that.”

To date, the party has around 6,000 members, many of them having defected from the FN for much the same reasons as Philippot himself. But Crépon said he doesn’t believe that is enough to pose any real threat to the FN or its electorate.

“I think the problem with Philippot is that he’s already a well-known figure, since he’s already spent many years with the FN. He’s in no way a new face, like Macron was, and so even if he tries to present his party [platform] as an ‘FN light’, most of those who chose FN in the first place did so for its nationalist, anti-immigrant platform, not because of any anti-EU rhetoric,” Crépon said, adding: “And so what they [the far-right voters] want is the original, not a new version.”

“It’s going to be complicated for Les Patriotes to be in competition with the FN because it is already so established. Le Pen is well-known and popular, with many years of experience, and so I don’t see how Les Patriotes could present themselves as a new and effective extreme right.”

Philippot, meanwhile, has spent the past few months touring France to drum up support in some of France’s far-right heartlands. His party is due to hold its first party congress in February or March next year, but the first real test is considered to be the European parliamentary elections in 2019.

Advertisements

Le Pen, Wilders to meet European far-right leaders amid protests

December 16, 2017

AFP

© AFP / by Jan FLEMR | French National Front (FN) leader Marine Le Pen is one of the main figures of the Europe of Nations and Freedom

PRAGUE (AFP) – Europe’s far-right leaders including Marine Le Pen and Geert Wilders will gather for a controversial conference in Prague on Saturday held under tight security amid protests planned to counter groups spreading xenophobia.Allied within the Europe of Nations and Freedom (ENF), a European Parliament group established two years ago, the parties — espousing strong anti-migrant and anti-EU views — say they plan to focus on cooperation within Europe outside EU bodies at the conference.

Le Pen, who lost the French presidential election run-off to Emmanuel Macron in May, and Wilders, head of the Dutch Party for Freedom, will sit next to Lorenzo Fontana from Italy’s Lega Nord or Georg Mayer from the Austrian FPO.

The organisers have also listed Belgium’s Gerolf Annemans, Poland’s Michal Marusik, Marcus Pretzell from the Alternative for Germany (AfD) and Janice Atkinson, a former member of Britain’s UKIP, among the speakers.

Czech police tightened security as left-wing groups announced several protests, including a blockade of the suburban area of Prague where the conference will be held on Saturday.

Police will also have their hands full with Wilders, who is facing death threats over his fiery anti-Islam rhetoric.

Protest organisers include the No to Racism initiative and Against Hatred, another local group.

– Far-right spike –

The conference takes place two months after the far-right SPD (Freedom and Direct Democracy) led by Tokyo-born entrepreneur Tomio Okamura scored over ten-percent support in the Czech general election on a staunchly anti-Islam and anti-EU ticket.

Backed openly by Le Pen, the SPD won 22 seats in the 200-member Czech parliament amid a far-right spike across Europe coming in the wake of the migrant crisis.

Okamura has received backing from Czech President Milos Zeman, a veteran leftwinger known for his pro-Russian, pro-Chinese and anti-Muslim rhetoric, who attended an SPD congress last weekend.

Zeman, who once called the migrant crisis “an organised invasion” of Europe and Muslims “impossible to integrate”, is the odds-on favourite in a two-round presidential election slated for January 2018.

Paradoxically, the Czech Republic, which vehemently opposes the EU’s quota system for distributing migrants among its members, has received only 12 migrants under the scheme.

Overall, migrant numbers from the Muslim world are very low in this EU member of 10.6 million people as refugees prefer wealthier European countries such as Germany or Sweden.

Czech parties nevertheless still seized on the political capital to be gained from playing on fears over terrorism and economic welfare to campaign on an anti-Muslim and anti-migrant platform.

by Jan FLEMR

‘Czech Trump’ fans eurosceptism two days before vote — “Czech Republic will not adopt the euro”

October 18, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File / by Jan MARCHAL | Czech billionaire and leader of the ANO 2011 political movement Andrej Babis is the clear favourite for prime minister in the October 20-21 general election

PRAGUE (AFP) – A billionaire populist known as the “Czech Trump” wooed eurosceptic voters on Wednesday with promises of a “fair” deal from Europe if he wins this week’s general election as expected.

Andrej Babis, 63, who heads the ANO (Yes) movement, is the clear favourite for prime minister in the October 20 and 21 ballot where traditional pro-EU parties are forecast to take a thrashing.

Analysts say that already-strong eurosceptism in the EU member country could further intensify, echoing trends in neighbouring countries in the bloc.

Voters on Wednesday received a letter in the mail from Babis vowing that “the Czech Republic will not adopt the euro” should he take office.

But he insisted he is “all for a single Europe which plays fair and where nobody is a second-class member”.

– ‘Czexit’ chatter –

After Britain’s vote to leave the EU in the Brexit referendum, some have even started to talk about the prospect of “Czexit”.

Two-thirds of Czechs said the EU’s decisions were not in the interest of their country in an April survey by the independent CVVM pollsters.

“Some voters, politicians and journalists are inclined to present these elections as a kind of referendum on Babis, but what’s worse and more dangerous is that topics like the migrant crisis and criticism of the EU are gaining more ground,” Charles University analyst Josef Mlejnek told AFP.

Babis echoes other eastern EU leaders — especially in Hungary and Poland — who also oppose mandatory EU refugee quotas and various rules they see as attempts by Brussels to limit national sovereignty.

While Babis has ruled out “Czexit”, he does want changes to the bloc’s rules on free movement of capital, goods, labour and services.

– Far-right rise –

An openly far-right anti-EU party with links to Marine Le Pen’s National Front in France is also set to gain ground, thanks in large part to its staunchly anti-migrant stance.

Led by Tokyo-born entrepreneur and lawmaker Tomio Okamura, Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD), has scored between 7.3 to 10.5-percent support in the polls, which would take is past the five-percent threshold needed to enter the 200-seat parliament.

In a recent poll by the Czech Academy of Sciences, ANO scored 30.9 percent — more than the combined support for two traditional heavyweights in Czech politics, the Social Democrat CSSD and the rightwing ODS. They scored 13.1 percent and 9.1 percent respectively.

– Corruption scandals –

ANO already held key posts in the current rocky centre-left coalition under Social Democrat Bohuslav Sobotka, with Babis holding the finance portfolio between January 2014 and May this year.

The Slovak-born tycoon — ranked by Forbes as the Czech Republic’s second wealthiest citizen — is riding high on “strong voter aversion to political parties tarnished by corruption scandals,” analyst Mlejnek told AFP.

So far, Babis’s popularity has not been touched by various scandals, including recent fraud charges over EU subsidies received by one of his companies.

Voter support for ANO has surged as he sticks to his promise to fight graft in public life and to “manage the state like a family business”.

“He offers the voters a populist alternative by presenting himself as someone capable of managing the state because he has already successfully managed his conglomerate,” Mlejnek said.

Heavily dependent on car production and exports to the eurozone, the Czech economy has fared well in recent years.

Unemployment stood at just 3.8 percent in September and economic growth is expected to pick up to 3.1 percent this year after 2.6 percent in 2016, according to the finance ministry.

– Anti-EU coalition? –

Babis insist he “can’t imagine” forging a governing coalition with anti-EU parties like Okamura’s far-right SPD or the far-left KSCM communist party, which scored up to 14.4 percent in recent polls.

But critics noted that the three parties joined forces in parliament on Monday to oppose granting an Australian company mining rights to a Czech lithium deposit.

Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said that he “sees the seeds of a coalition between Babis, (communist head Vojtech) Filip and Okamura.”

Sobotka, who handed the leadership of his struggling CSSD Social Democrats to pro-European Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek during the elections, insists that any possible future coalition deal with ANO would not include Babis.

Three months after this week’s general election, Czechs will choose their new president in the second-ever direct presidential election.

Outspoken leftwinger Milos Zeman, a 73-year-old pro-Russian, pro-Chinese, anti-immigration Babis supporter, will compete for his second five-year term in that vote.

by Jan MARCHAL
.
Related:
.

Expect Israel To Feel Threatened By Austria’s New Far Right Leaders

October 17, 2017
BY HERB KEINON
 OCTOBER 17, 2017 05:20

Jerusalem will have to tread carefully as it calculates its reaction to the rise of Austria’s far-right Freedom Party, which holds views that are not supportive of the Jewish state.

Norbert Hofer (L) and Austrian Freedom Party (FPOe) top candidate Heinz-Christian Strache attend the

Norbert Hofer (L) and Austrian Freedom Party (FPOe) top candidate Heinz-Christian Strache attend their party’s final election campaign rally in Vienna, Austria, October 13, 2017. . (photo credit:MICHAEL DALDER/REUTERS)

Israel has not yet reacted to Sunday’s elections in Austria that will likely catapult the far-right Freedom Party into the government, but this outcome poses a clear challenge to Jerusalem: Should it engage with European far-right parties if they become a part of a government? Jerusalem has avoided having to face the issue this year, thanks to the National Front’s loss in the French elections and German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s position of not including the AfD in her governing coalition.

Austria’s Freedom Party, however, will bring the issue to the fore.

Under Jorg Haider in 1999, Austria’s Freedom Party – a party formed in 1956 by former members of the Nazi party – became part of the Austrian ruling coalition. Israel responded by recalling its ambassador and downgrading its relations with Vienna for more than three years, until the coalition fell apart.

But that was then.

In 1999 Israel could boycott Austria’s government because there was little chance that by doing so it would lead to a need to boycott other governments joined by right-wing parties – because that prospect seemed remote. But that is no longer the case, as the European far-Right is on the rise.

In other words, it is one thing not to engage or to boycott parties in the opposition; it is quite another if those parties may soon be ruling various countries.

Image may contain: text

Israel’s unstated but clear policy up until now has been to break up the European far-right parties into three distinct categories.

The first are the fascist and neo-Nazi parties, such as Jobbik in Hungary, Golden Dawn in Greece, and the NDP in Germany. These are parties with which Israel will not engage, even if they become members of the ruling governments.

The second category includes parties – like Austria’s Freedom Party – that have a Nazi or fascist past, and which currently have antisemitic and racist tendencies. Other parties in this category include the National Front in France, AfD in Germany – which did surprisingly well in that country’s elections last month – and the Swedish Democrats in Sweden.

Up until now, Israel’s formal policy has been to avoid contact with those parties and not to engage with them or their members at a diplomatic level. This means that neither the prime minister nor the foreign minister meet their leaders if they visit Israel, and that Israel’s ambassadors in those countries do not meet with the party heads.

At the same time, Jerusalem cannot do anything about errant ministers, MKs or politicians who do meet with members of these parties from time to time, as was the case when the Freedom Party’s leader Heinz-Christian Strache visited Israel last year.

In the third category are populist parties with some racist elements in them, such as Geert Wilders’s Party for Freedom in the Netherlands, UKIP in Britain and the Vlaams Belang Party in Belgium. These parties, which are different from one another, do not have Nazi or fascist pasts. Israel’s policy toward them is generally not to boycott but, rather, to deal with each party according to the particular situation and each party’s merits.

For instance, Israel does engage with Wilders’s party, and has normal relations with UKIP.

This set of policies has emerged over the years amid a sense in Jerusalem that Israel – as the state of the Jewish people – has a unique standing on these matters, and that its position on these parties is carefully watched by many inside Europe. For example, that Strache has made efforts to distance himself from his party’s past and put forward strong pro-Israel positions has been interpreted in Jerusalem as an effort to get Israel’s “stamp of approval,” something that would help him gain legitimacy elsewhere.

Another element that has guided Israel in its policies toward these parties has been the position of the local Jewish communities, and these Jewish communities have – in all cases of those parties in the second category – come out against Israel engaging with them.

Jerusalem is not expected to comment on the Austrian elections until after a coalition is formed, and even then, it is unlikely to be among the first to comment or formulate a policy.

Rather, it will likely wait to see how countries like Germany, France and Britain respond.

Ironically, the candidate who won Austria’s election, 31-year-old Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz, is considered in Jerusalem as pro-Israel. Jerusalem has no problem with him, but, rather, only with his potential coalition partner.

Even so, there are three reasons that Jerusalem is unlikely to boycott the Austrian government, as it did when the Freedom Party was a member from 1999 to 2003.

Firstly, the success of parties like the Freedom Party is a phenomenon increasingly evident throughout the European political system. Secondly, because Strache, as opposed to Haider, has professed pro-Israel positions.

And thirdly, because the party has – at least to a certain degree – tried to moderate itself.

.

France’s Le Pen ‘determined’ to revitalise far right — “Macronism is the triumph of the dominant class whose only moral veneer is human rights and whose only values and purpose is money.”

September 9, 2017

AFP

© AFP | Back from holiday with a ‘burning sense of duty’

BRACHAY (FRANCE) (AFP) – France’s far-right leader Marine Le Pen, whose National Front (FN) party emerged weakened and divided from this year’s elections, said Saturday she was “determined” to revitalise her movement.

She returned from summer holidays “with a great determination and a burning sense of duty not for me but for you, not alone, but with you”, she said.

Speaking to a crowd of about 500 in the northeastern town of Brachay, an FN stronghold, the populist leader said: “Our political family is the only one capable of embodying” a force that could counter the new centrist movement of President Emmanuel Macron.

Le Pen garnered 34 percent of the vote against 66 percent for Macron in the May presidential runoff.

In June, the anti-EU, anti-immigration FN went on to win eight seats in the 577-seat parliament.

While the result was a historic high for the FN, many within the party were deeply disappointed, faulting Le Pen for running a poor campaign.

The party split over its key policy of wanting to scrap the euro — seen as too risky by many voters, particularly from the older generation.

The radical left Unbowed France party of Jean-Luc Melenchon, with 17 seats in parliament, touts itself as the country’s leading opposition force.

But on Saturday, Le Pen, 49, said: “We are the exact antithesis of Macronism.”

She lambasted the president for what she called a “policy of perpetual precariousness”, in a reference to his reforms to the labour code that will make it easier for employers to hire and fire staff.

“Macronism is the triumph of the dominant class whose only moral veneer is human rights and whose only values and purpose is money,” she said.

The stunning success of Macron’s centrist Republic on the Move party redrew France’s political landscape, sidelining traditional left and right parties that had alternated power for decades.

As a result, no party has the clear profile of a political opposition, in the opinion of 39 percent of respondents to a poll published Saturday.

Unbowed France was cited by 32 percent, while 14 percent pointed to the FN.

The right-wing Republican scored nine percent, according to the poll by BFMTV.

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.

Image may contain: 2 people, closeup

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.

No automatic alt text available.

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.

Image may contain: 1 person, closeup

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

French defence minister quits over new EU fake jobs inquiry

June 20, 2017

AFP

© Bertrand Guay, AFP | Former French defence minister Sylvie Goulard during a ceremony in the Paris suburb of Suresnes on June 18, 2017.

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2017-06-20

French Defence Minister Sylvie Goulard announced her resignation on Tuesday over a fake jobs scandal that has hit her small centrist MoDem party, allied with President Emmanuel Macron’s party.

Goulard, who was previously a member of the European Parliament, said she could not remain in the government while there was a possibility that she could be investigated over alleged misuse of expenses at that parliament.

Her resignation comes as Macron carries out a minor reshuffle of his government following parliamentary elections on Sunday which handed him and his allies MoDem a commanding majority.

François Bayrou, Justice Minister, Marielle de Sarnez, State Sec for EU, are both cited in the case & could be forced to step down.

“Old” politics coming back to bite Rep. en Marche! And a real question of the usefulness/efficiency of ex ante verification…

Goulard had only been in the defence job for a month following Macron’s election to the presidency.

But she said the possibility of an investigation made it difficult for her to stay in the post given Macron’s agenda to clean up politics.

“The president is committed to restoring confidence in public office, reforming France and relaunching Europe,” she said in a statement.

“This reform agenda must take precedence over any personal considerations.

“That is why I have asked the president, with the agreement of the prime minister, to leave the government.”

Earlier this month, Paris prosecutors opened a preliminary investigation into claims in the Canard Enchaine newspaper that MoDem was using European parliamentary funds to pay staff based in France.

MoDem’s leader Francois Bayrou was a key backer of Macron’s one-year-old Republic on the Move (REM) during the presidential campaign and whose support was crucial in winning centrist votes for the new president.

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

May 29, 2017

.

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
.

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

Related:

.

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.

Graphic

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