WORLD Final results confirm Le Pen beats Macron in EU vote in France

WORLD

Final results confirm Le Pen beats Macron in EU vote in France

Xinhua

01:00, May 28, 2019

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A European flag blows in front of a polling station in Frankfurt, Germany, Sunday, May 26, 2019. (Photo: AP)

PARIS (Xinhua) -- Final European election results released by the French Interior Ministry on Monday confirmed the victory of Marine Le Pen's far-right National Rally (RN) over President Emmanuel Macron's La Republic en Marche (LREM) party with a tiny margin.

The anti-immigration National Rally won 23.31 percent of the vote, finishing 0.9 percent ahead of Macron's centrist ruling party, final results showed.

With two opposing visions for Europe, RN and LREM will respectively send 22 and 21 lawmakers to the European Parliament (EP).

Once Britain leaves the European Union, RN will receive 1 extra EP seat, and Macron's LREM 2 extra seats.

In a stronger-than-expected performance, the French Green Party improved its representation in the EP by winning 13 seats after 13.47 percent of the country's 47 million voters backed the Greens' list, 4 percent more than in the 2014 ballot.

The center-right republicans won 8.48 percent of the vote, their worst score in decades, followed by the far-left France Unbowed and the Socialist Party, which both collected slightly over 6 percent of the vote.

NO CHANGE

"If, as head of state, I let Europe ... break up, I will have a responsibility to history. The French president is not a party leader but it is normal for him to get involved in fundamental choices," Macron told regional media days before this weekend's vote.

"I do not have the spirit of defeat, I have the spirit of conquest. France will be all the stronger as we will make a good score," he stressed.

Despite his efforts to give an impetus to the Renaissance Party he created in 2016, its list was relegated to second place by the extreme rightists, which was widely seen as a personal blow to the 41-year-old head of state and to his efforts to renew the European by proposing a joint budget for the eurozone and stronger cooperation on migration, defense and trade.

However, the defeat is narrow for the ruling party and it will not trigger major changes in either the government's lineup or in its reform drive, analysts said.

"President Emmanuel Macron has limited the loss. Many pensioners and right-wing voters had chosen to comfort Macron and gave him a second chance," political analyst Christophe Barbier told BFMTV news channel.

"It is not a victory but a reprieve. He must continue with his liberal politics and focus more on ecology as I think he has understood the result's message," he said, referring to the Greens' surprise surge.

Alain Duhamel, a political commentator, commented that while Le Pen won but did not claim a "triumph," Macron was defeated but avoided "the distater."

"For Marine Le Pen, it's a victory, but a Pyrrhic one. We know very well that in 3 years, in case of a Macron versus Le Pen duel, Macron will win. Facing Marine Le Pen, he will always win," he told RTL radio.

In the ruling party, disappointment reigned but this was not expected to trigger changes in the government's course.

"When you finish second, you cannot say you have won ... The far-right is consolidating its position and many of our compatriots feel that the time has come for extreme solutions. This message is strong and we have received it," Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said.

"The time is now to act because the French will judge us on one thing: the results. We got some, but not enough," he said Sunday evening.

In the same vein, National Assembly President Richard Ferrand stressed that "the government is solid, the majority is welded. It is necessary to continue without seeking new orientations."

He called for a change of methods in order for them to be "closer and more attentive to local elected officials, large associations, trade unions."


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