Macron to become next French president after beating back Le Pen and her populist tide

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

Macron to become next French president after beating back Le Pen and her populist tide

What Emmanuel Macron’s victory means for France and the world
 
Centrist Emmanuel Macron is on track to win the French presidency defeating Marine Le Pen, the leader of France’s far-right National Front, a strongly anti-immigrant populist party. Macron, 39, will now become France’s youngest head of state since Napoleon Bonaparte.(Adam Taylor, Jason Aldag/The Washington Post)
May 7 at 2:30 PM
France on Sunday shrugged off the siren call of right-wing populism that enchanted voters in the United States and United Kingdom, rejecting anti-E.U. firebrand Marine Le Pen and choosing as its next president Emmanuel Macron, a centrist political neophyte who has pledged to revive both his struggling country and the flailing continent.The result brought to a close a tumultuous and polarized campaign that defied prediction at nearly every turn, though not at the end. Pre-election polls had forecast a sizable Macron victory, and he appeared to have delivered, with projections issued after polls closed showing him with around 65 percent of the vote.

In a statement to the AFP news service, Macron said the country had “turned a new page in our long history. I want it to be a page of hope and renewed trust.”

He was expected to deliver a victory speech later Sunday night in the grand courtyard of Paris’s Louvre Museum, where news of his win spawned raucous cheers among thousands of flag-waving Macron backers.

“I feel relieved,” said Valentin Coutouly, a 23-year-old student who described himself as “European to the core” and who was celebrating on a chilly May night. “I think we were all afraid that Le Pen could actually win. We realized in the end that it was possible.”

France’s Macron votes in crucial presidential poll

 

 
After a tumultuous presidential election campaign filled with scandal and surprises, favorite Emmanuel Macron cast his vote on Sunday, May 7. (Reuters)

At her own gathering at a Paris restaurant, a downcast Le Pen conceded defeat, telling her demoralized supporters that the country had “chosen continuity” and said the election had drawn clear lines between “the patriots and the globalists.”

The outcome will soothe Europe’s anxious political establishment, which had feared a Le Pen victory would throw in reverse decades of efforts to forge continental integration.

But it instantly puts pressure on Macron to deliver on promises made to an unhappy French electorate, including reform of two institutions notoriously resistant to change: the European Union and the French bureaucracy.

At 39, the trim, blue-eyed and square-jawed Macron will become France’s youngest leader since Napoleon when he is inaugurated this weekend, and his election caps an astonishing  rise.

With a background in investment banking and a turn as economy minister under a historically unpopular president, he may have seemed an ill fit for the anti-establishment anger coursing through Western politics.

But by bucking France’s traditional parties and launching his own movement – En Marche, or Onward — Macron managed to cast himself as the outsider the country needs. And by unapologetically embracing the European Union, immigration and the multicultural tableau of modern France, he positioned himself as the optimistic and progressive antidote to the dark and reactionary vision of Le Pen’s National Front.

Le Pen, 48, has long sought to become the first far-right leader elected in Western Europe’s post-war history. Sunday’s vote frustrated those ambitions, but is unlikely to end them.

By winning around 35 percent of the vote, she nearly doubled the share won by her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, in the 2002 election, the only other time the National Front’s candidate has made it to the second round. The result seemed to cement the party’s long march from the political fringe to the center of the nation’s unhappy political discourse, if not the pinnacle of its power.

Struggling with chronically high unemployment and recurrent terrorist attacks, France’s mood on the day of its presidential vote was reflected in the dark clouds and chilly spring rains that blanketed much of the country.

Nonetheless, the public voted at a rate that would be the envy of many Western democracies: From the chic neighborhoods of Paris to the struggling post-industrial towns of the French countryside, turnout nationwide was expected to reach 75 percent, down slightly from previous votes.

No matter whom French voters picked, the choice was bound to be historic.

The dominant two parties of France’s Fifth Republic were both eliminated in the first round. The center-left Socialists were decimated, brought low by the failure of current President Francois Hollandeto turn around the economy or to prevent a succession of mass-casualty terrorist attacks.

The center-right Republicans, meanwhile, missed what was once seen as a sure-fire bet at returning to power after their candidate, former prime minister Francois Fillon, was hobbled by a series of corruption allegations.

The two candidates who remained, Le Pen and Macron, both traced an outsider’s path as they sought residence at the Élysée Palace.

Of the two, Macron had the more direct route. But his campaign still had to overcome all the usual challenges of a start-up, plus some extraordinary ones — including the publication online Friday night of thousands of hacked campaign documents in a cyber-attack that aroused suspicions of Russian meddling.

The outcome of Sunday’s vote will have profound implications not only for France’s 67 million citizens, but also for the future of Europe and for the political trajectory across the Western world.

After a pair of  dramatic triumphs for the populist right in 2016 – with Brexit in the U.K., and Donald Trump in the U.S. – France’s vote was viewed as a test of whether the political mainstream could beat back a rising tide.

Many of Europe’s mainstream leaders — both center-right and center-left – lined up to cheer Macron on after he punched his ticket to the second round in a vote last month. The endorsements were a break from protocol for presidents and prime ministers who normally stay out of each other’s domestic elections.

But they reflected the gravity of the choice that France faced. A victory by Le Pen was seen as a possible market-rattling death blow to decades of efforts to draw Europe more closely together, with the country’s new president expected to lead campaigns to take the country out of both the E.U. and the euro.

Former U.S. president Barack Obama had also endorsed Macron, and the young French politician often appeared to be trying to emulate the magic of Obama’s 2008 campaign with speeches that appealed to hope, change and unity — while eliding many of the details of his policies.

The current White House occupant, Trump, was  cagey about his choice, saying before the first round that Le Pen was “the strongest on borders and she’s the strongest on what’s been going on in France.” He predicted that she would do well, but stopped short of endorsing her.

On the campaign trail this spring, Le Pen’s rhetoric had often echoed Trump’s, with vows to put “France first” and to defend “the forgotten France.” She also condemned globalist cosmopolitans – Macron chief among them — who she said did not have the nation’s interests at heart.

But she had distanced herself from Trump since his inauguration, often declining to mention him by name, and analysts said her association with the unpopular American president may have hurt her among French voters.

Macron shares almost nothing with Trump except one key fact: Like the New York real estate tycoon, Macron became president of his country on his first run for elective office.

The son of doctors who was raised in the northern city of Amiens, Macron had to teach himself the basics of campaigning on the fly in the white-hot glare of a presidential race.

Vowing repeatedly during the campaign to borrow from both left and right, he will now have to learn how to govern a country without the backing of any of its traditional parties.

Instead, he has a movement that he built from scratch, and now faces the immediate challenge of getting En Marche allies elected to the National Assembly.

That vote, due next month, will determine whether Macron has the parliamentary support he needs to enact an agenda of sweeping economic reforms, many of which are likely to unsettle the country’s deeply entrenched labor unions.

Despite his victory, pre-election polls showed that most of Macron’s supporters saw themselves voting against Le Pen rather than for him.

That was reflected on the streets Sunday, with voters even in well-to-do and heavily pro-Macron neighborhoods of Paris saying they felt more resigned than excited.

“On the one hand you have a far-right party that will take us straight to disaster,” said Gilbert Cohen, a retired 82-year-old engineer who cast his ballot amid the vaulted ceilings of Paris’s 17th century Place des Vosges, a former royal residence that was also home to Victor Hugo. “On the other, you have the candidate who’s the only reasonable choice we have.”

Cohen described Macron as “brilliant.” But, he said, the new boy wonder of French politics “can’t govern by himself.”

Elsewhere in France, the mood was even more markedly downbeat. In Laon, a small and struggling city 90 miles north of Paris, many voters said they were so disillusioned by the choice that they would cast a blank ballot.

Others said their disenchantment had led them to Le Pen – and a hope that, despite the polls, she could still eke out a victory that would bring the radical break for France that they crave.

“We’ve had 50 years of rule from the left and the right,” said Francis Morel, a 54-year-old bread maker who cast his ballot for Le Pen. “Nothing has changed.”

The mood was considerably more upbeat Sunday night at the Louvre, where Macron supporters gathered in what was once the seat of French kings for their candidate’s victory celebration.

Stéphanie Ninel, 31, a technician, said she had been at the Louvre since just after lunchtime, braving the chilly weather to snag a prime position in the crowd.

“I’ve been old enough to vote in three elections now,” she said. “But this is the first time I feel I’ve been able to vote for someone with actual conviction. He’s a new person, and he demands a new politics.”

Stanley-Becker reported from Laon and McAuley from Paris. Benjamin Zagzag in Laon and Virgile Demoustier in Paris contributed to this report.

Did Marine Le Pen’s Mouth Show The French People Her True Soul?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

Emmanuel Macron in Albi, France, on Thursday. Marine Le Pen, his presidential opponent, described him in a debate on Wednesday as “the privileged child of the system and the elites.” CreditBenoit Tessier/Reuters

PARIS — A milestone in French politics was reached in the country’s verbally violent presidential debate Wednesday night, but not the expected one.

The shock in the post-debate commentaries, in print and across the airwaves, was revealing: France had never witnessed such a brutal political confrontation in real time.

The consensus was that, far from being the knockout blow Marine Le Pen needed and many anticipated, the result was the opposite. The candidate of the far-right National Front had not improved her already difficult position against the centrist former economy minister Emmanuel Macron.

With her sneering mockery of Mr. Macron, her aggressive tone, and her use of epithets, she had revealed something essential about herself despite years of effort to soften her party’s image, in the view of commentators.

Continue reading the main story

“I was myself surprised, as she revealed herself as what is worst about the far right in France,” Gérard Grunberg, a veteran political scientist at the Institut d’Études Politiques, known as Sciences-Po, said in an interview.

Even her own father, the National Front patriarch and founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, declared that she “wasn’t up to it” during the two-and-half-hour debate, though he still supports her election. A poll taken immediately after for BFMTV found that 63 percent of viewers thought Mr. Macron had carried the day. His polling lead in the election Sunday is around 20 points.

Most significantly, many saw in Ms. Le Pen’s principal debate tactic an unwelcome guest: the big lie.

Mr. Macron repeatedly called her a liar during the debate, and newspaper commentaries on Thursday backed him up. “Marine Le Pen: The Strategy of the Lie,” was the banner headline on Le Monde’s front page, which went on to say that the “deliberate tactic was largely inspired by what Donald Trump practiced in the American campaign.”

The newspaper detailed “The 19 lies of Marine Le Pen” during the debate about topics including “Brexit,” the euro, the European Union and terrorism. On all these subjects the newspaper demonstrated that Ms. Le Pen had put forward half-truths and outright falsehoods.

She was revealed as “the heir of a practice of politics that has always been based on denigration and threat,” Le Monde said in its front-page editorial. “The imitator, besides, of Donald Trump, piling on, just like the American president, lying insinuation.”

Mr. Macron’s campaign has been quick to pick up on the (negative) parallel between President Trump and Ms. Le Pen, posting a video on Twitter in which American and British citizens express regret about voting for Mr. Trump and for Brexit, and warning that “this Sunday France will have to make a choice. The worst is not impossible.”

Ms. Le Pen herself has significantly backed away from her early enthusiastic declarations in favor of Mr. Trump since his chaotic beginnings. Meanwhile, former President Barack Obama announced Thursday he was supporting Mr. Macron, in a video posted on Mr. Macron’s Twitter feed.

One “insinuation” from Ms. Le Pen in the Wednesday debate may wind up costing her. At the end she suggested that Mr. Macron might have “an offshore account,” later acknowledging she had no proof.

Photo

Marine Le Pen in Ennemain, France, on Thursday. A leading historian of her party, the National Front, said Wednesday’s debate was “transformed into a fight.” CreditMichel Spingler/Associated Press

Such an accusation is extremely serious for public figures in France, especially in the court of public opinion. The Paris prosecutor has opened an investigation into whether fake news is being used to influence the election, and Mr. Macron has announced a lawsuit against right-wing websites over the suggestion.

Ms. Le Pen’s tactics on Wednesday, eschewing any kind of detailed exposition of policies and instead relying on epithet-slinging — Mr. Macron was “the privileged child of the system and the elites,” and the “representative of subjugated France” — would have been familiar to anyone attending her rallies across France this election season. Her supporters roar at these verbal sallies.

But such language is not normally part of mainstream political discourse in France. And that fact set up the collision of Wednesday night, and the tone of dismay and shock in the commentaries on Thursday.

The second-round presidential debate has become almost a sacred ritual in French politics. Fifteen years ago, Jacques Chirac, the former president, refused to dignify Ms. Le Pen’s father in a debate when he unexpectedly made the second round. That Ms. Le Pen was not given that treatment in 2017, commentators suggested, meant that she had been accepted as a legitimate partner in the democratic process.

But on Thursday, French media and academic commentators suggested she had violated that trust by her “violence,” as many put it. “Maybe she wanted to reassure her electorate,” Marc Lazar, a historian, said in an interview, “or maybe she was just showing her true nature.”

“She has wanted to show that she has ‘undemonized’ the party,” Mr. Lazar continued, referring to the effort Ms. Le Pen has undertaken to distance the National Front from the hate-filled declarations of her father. “But in the end, she just proved that she is her father’s daughter. I think there were a lot of people who were surprised, because they thought she had really changed.”

Even experienced Front-watchers were taken aback by Ms. Le Pen’s actions on Wednesday night. “It was transformed into a fight, not a debate,” said Valérie Igounet, the Front’s leading historian. “The way she spoke was pretty unsettling. I was astonished, too. She was so aggressive.”

Numerous political figures said the debate had made a big voter turnout for Mr. Macron all the more urgent. It was not expected to come from the far left, which continues to evince extreme hostility to Mr. Macron, seeing him as the hated representative of capitalism and finance — precisely Ms. Le Pen’s depiction of him.

The far-left leader, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, has suggested that there is an equivalence between the two candidates. Some two-thirds of his voters will cast blank votes or abstain on Sunday, according to an internal party survey.

On Thursday, one of Mr. Mélenchon’s more prominent supporters, a filmmaker named François Ruffin, wrote in an op-ed in Le Monde addressed to Mr. Macron in the wake of the debate: “You are detested already, before even having set foot in the Élysée,” referring to the presidential residence.

Mr. Ruffin, who made a film that tracked the corporation-mocking efforts of Michael Moore, continued: “You are hated” by those whom Mr. Mélenchon represents “because they see in you, and they are right, the arrogant elite,” Mr. Ruffin wrote. “You are hated, you are hated, you are hated.”

More typical of Thursday’s reactions, though, was that of the editorial in the southern La Dépêche du Midi, in Toulouse. “The ‘decisive’ debate was above all a revelatory debate. Through lies and incessant interruptions, striking proof was given last night that it is difficult, if not impossible, to debate with the far right, in conditions of minimal democratic respect.”

France kills more than 20 militants on Mali, Burkina border

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)

France kills more than 20 militants on Mali, Burkina border

France has killed more than 20 militants hiding in a forest near the border between the West African countries of Mali and Burkina Faso this weekend, its regional force said in a statement.

The operation followed the death of a French soldier nearby earlier this month. It involved both air and ground strikes, the statement said. It did not identify the militant group.

Mali has been regularly hit by Islamist militant violence, despite a 2013 French-led operation to drive them out of key northern cities they had seized. It extended a state of emergency by six months this weekend.

But violence in its southern neighbor, Burkina Faso, began to intensify last year with an attack in the capital that killed dozens. Burkinabe officials believe a new Islamist militant group called Ansar al-Islam led by a local preacher was using the Foulsare Forest as a base for launching attacks elsewhere.

France has deployed some 4,000 soldiers to fight Islamist militants in the region.

(Reporting by Emma Farge; Additional reporting by Matthias Blamont in Paris; Editing by Robin Pomeroy, Larry King)

France ‘has proof’ Assad regime was behind Syria chemical weapon attack

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

France ‘has proof’ Assad regime was behind Syria chemical weapon attack

Story highlights

  • France finds common elements in samples from Khan Sheikhoun and a 2013 Syria attack
  • French Foreign Ministry says there’s “no doubt about the responsibility of the Syrian regime”

(CNN) France has said that it has proof that the Syrian government was behind a chemical weapons attack in Syria earlier this month that killed 89 people.

The French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said that samples taken from the attack on the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun matched those from a previous incident.
“We have definite sources that the procedure used to make the Sarin sampled is typical of the methods developed in Syrian laboratories,” he said. “This method bears the signature of the regime, and that is what has allowed us to establish its responsibility in this attack.”
French laboratories had stored samples taken from other chemical attacks in Syria and so were able to compare them, he said.
A tweet posted by the French Foreign Ministry said: “There’s no doubt that Sarin was used. There is also no doubt about the responsibility of the Syrian regime.”
The attack has been widely blamed by Western powers on the Syrian government, which is supposed to have given up its chemical weapon stockpile in 2013 following an attack in the Ghouta area of Damascus that activists say killed 1,400 people.
International chemical weapons inspectors from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said last week they had found “incontrovertible” evidence that Sarin, or a similar substance, was used in the April 4 attack on Khan Sheikhoun, but did not apportion responsibility.
UK scientists had already found that Sarin or a similar chemical had been used in the attack, having tested samples smuggled from the site.

Assad denies chemical attack in interview

Assad denies chemical attack in interview
However, Damascus denies it had anything to do with the Khan Sheikhoun attack, instead blaming “terrorist” groups. It also denies it has any chemical weapons.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, a key Syrian ally, has suggested meanwhile that the attack was carried out by “forces” trying to frame the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Moscow also questioned the impartiality of the OPCW.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Wednesday that Russia would not change its position regarding the Khan Sheikhoun attack in light of the French assessment.
“The Kremlin and President Putin still believe that conducting an impartial international investigation is the only way to find out the truth,” state-run TASS quoted Peskov as saying.

‘Common elements’

A Syrian man collects samples from the site of a suspected toxic gas attack in Khan Sheikhoun on April 5.

The French Foreign Ministry said its independent investigation, declassified so it could be shared with the world, supported “with certainty” the conclusions also reached by the United States, United Kingdom, Turkey and the OPCW.
Analysis by French experts of samples from the April 4 attack site and the blood of one of the victims confirmed the use of Sarin, its report said. Those samples were compared with samples from an attack on the northern Syrian town of Saraqeb in April 2013, in which three grenades containing Sarin were dropped by a helicopter, one of which failed to explode, it said. According to the French army, only the Syrian regime had helicopters so it had to be behind the attack.

Syrians bury the bodies of victims of the attack in Khan Sheikhoun, in Idlib province, on April 5, 2017.

Scientists established the presence of the same chemical compounds in samples taken from Saraqeb in 2013 and from Khan Sheikhoun, the French Foreign Ministry said. “The Sarin present in the weapons used on April 4 was produced according to the same manufacturing method as that used in the Sarin attack carried out by the Syrian regime in Saraqeb.”
The report also cited the French military’s assessment that a warplane had been deployed from the Syrian regime’s Shayrat airbase on the morning of April 4 and had carried out up to six airstrikes in the Khan Sheikhoun area. “Only the regime has such air assets,” said Ayrault.

Pentagon: No doubt Syria behind gas attack

Pentagon: No doubt Syria behind gas attack
“The French intelligence services believe that only Bashar al-Assad and some of the most influential members of his entourage are empowered to give the order to use chemical weapons,” the report added.
The report also describes the claim that rebel forces in the area had Sarin as “not credible.”
It casts doubt on the Syrian regime’s promised destruction of its chemical stockpile, saying that French intelligence services believe “important doubts remain about the accuracy, completeness and sincerity of the dismantling of the Syrian chemical arsenal.”

Missile strike

The chemical attack in Syria prompted the United States to launch its first military strike on the Syrian regime in the six-year war, causing a major rift between Washington and Moscow.
On President Donald Trump’s orders, US warships launched 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at the Shayrat airbase, US officials said.
The Khan Sheikhoun incident has led to renewed calls for Assad to be forced from power, as international ceasefire and peace talks continue to end a conflict which has killed 400,000 people, according to UN data.

France Throws the Bums Out and Votes for a New Political Reality

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME)

France Throws the Bums Out and Votes for a New Political Reality

Apr 23, 2017
No matter whether centrist economist Emmanuel Macron or far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen wins France’s presidency in two weeks’ time, Sunday’s first-round election made history in France — ripping up the political system that has governed for generations over the world’s sixth biggest economy and a powerhouse of the European Union.

Both the ruling Socialists and the conservative Republicans suffered crushing defeats, as millions of French voters expressed years of exasperation, fear and disillusion by voting for insurgent or extremist candidates. The runoff round between Macron and Le Pen — Sunday’s two top vote getters — is on May 7.

As the polls closed at 8 p.m., the results appeared to be a collective cri de coeur against the establishment. “This is huge,” says Pierre Haski, political columnist for the news magazine L’Obs, speaking to TIME after the vote. “The two parties that have dominated the political landscape for three or four decades have collapsed.”

The next President of France now seems highly likely to be Macron, who captured the most votes among 11 candidates on Sunday. That itself is a stunning new reality. Macron, just 39, would be France’s youngest-ever president by far if he is inaugurated in the ornate Élysée Palace on May 15.

What is more, he has never held elective office and has no traditional political party to call his own; he quit President François Hollande’s government as Economy Minister last September to create his own political movement, called En Marche! (On the Go!), and drafted thousands of young French to knock on doors across the country, polling 100,000 people about how they wanted their country to change.

It was a gamble that seems to have paid off — and now, it could catapult this newcomer into power. It is hard to overstate the extraordinary and surprising nature of that accomplishment.

Emmanuel Macron speaks after winning the lead percentage of votes in the first round of the French presidential elections in Paris on April 23, 2017. He faces off against far-right candidate Marine Le Pen on May 7. Emmanuel Macron speaks after winning the lead percentage of votes in the first round of the French presidential elections in Paris on April 23, 2017. He faces off against far-right candidate Marine Le Pen on May 7 Mustafa Yalcin—Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

“In one year we have changed the face of French politics,” Macron told his ecstatic supporters at his victory party in Paris late Sunday night, saying that his win brought “new hope for our country, and for Europe.” Amid the crowd of giddy supporters were many young French voting for the first time, who said in interviews they had been drawn to a candidate that appeared young and modern — a striking change from the fairly small group of grandees who have run the country for many years.

The preliminary results Sunday night put Macron at 23.9%, Le Pen at 21.7% and the Republicans’ candidate François Fillon around 19%. The Socialist candidate Benoît Hamon polled a disastrous 6% — a potential death knell for the party that has ruled France for five years. Fillon and Hamon, in somber concession speeches, admitted they were facing an entirely new political situation as outsiders. Both called on supporters to back Macron in the second round vote on May 7.

Standing in a hall in southern Paris, hundreds of Macron’s young campaign volunteers broke into wild applause and cheers of “Macron Président!” as Fillon, projected on a large-screen monitor on stage, said, “I will be voting for Emmanuel Macron.”

Indeed, Macron’s lead over Le Pen on Sunday could potentially increase once all the votes are counted. That is because the early estimates do not include big cities like Paris, which are bastions of support for the former Rothschild investment banker, who is intent on modernizing the country and unraveling generations of state-heavy intervention.

When TIME profiled Macron last July, while he was still serving in Hollande’s Cabinet, he said he believed the current system was “sclerotic” and could not survive. “I am a newcomer,” he told us then. “I want to remain a newcomer. It is in my DNA.”

Read more: Emmanuel Macron Has Big Plans for France. Is It Ready for Them?

Now, however, he will need to become the ultimate insider: Piecing together a coalition to smash Le Pen’s National Front in the runoff round, and then to force through an agenda that could well spark violent protests. That includes loosening the way companies hire and fire employees, cutting back on steep wealth taxes for the richest French and luring hundreds of thousands of French expats back home; those include countless high-skilled professionals in Silicon Valley and London’s financial hub, who left France in recent years, frustrated by the lack of growth.

Macron’s ability to push through his programs will depend heavily on the parliamentary elections in June. His political movement, which currently has no representation, has scrambled in recent weeks to find candidates for the June vote. “En Marche! has received 15,000 people who want to be deputies,” Macron campaign spokeswoman Laurence Haim told TIME earlier this week. “We have commissions that are looking at each candidate, and we want parity and diversity, to completely transform the face of political life in France.”

That is just one challenge, however: Le Pen.

The 48-year-old won the biggest-ever support for the National Front in Sunday’s election. She has spent six years remaking the party from her father’s far more rabidly racist and anti-Semitic movement into an electable force. In some ways, she succeeded in that on Sunday.

Marine Le Pen, leader of the National Front, exits a polling booth after marking her ballot during the first round of the French presidential election in Henin Beaumont on April 23, 2017.Marine Le Pen, leader of the National Front, exits a polling booth after marking her ballot during the first round of the French presidential election in Hénin-Beaumont, France, on April 23, 2017 Marlene Awaad—Bloomberg/Getty Images

Tapping into deep unease over the migrant crisis and the terrorist threat, Le Pen stormed through the country arguing that France needed to close its borders and virtually halt all immigration, promising to hold a referendum to pull France out of the E.U. and drop the use of the Euro. Speaking to her supporters on Sunday night after the vote, Le Pen vowed she would take her support all the way to the Élysée.”Globalization puts our country in danger,” she thundered, to a packed hall in the northern France town of Hénin-Beaumont.

That message clearly hit home with millions of voters on Sunday. When TIME traveled the hard-hit Rust Belt of Northern France in February, many Le Pen supporters said they believed global free trade, which Macron supports, had failed French workers. “We don’t think that finding workers that are cheaper and cheaper, with worse working conditions, is a good thing for the people of the world,” National Front activist Éric Richermoz, 24, told TIME then. “The National Front is the only party that gives people hope in these elections,” he said in the northern town of Amiens.

Now, Macron will need to reckon with that fury—even if he succeeds in winning the presidency. And there is fury too on the other side of the political spectrum: 19.2% voted for the far-left politician Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who fought to nationalize major industries and to reconsider France’s E.U. membership.

“He has to take into account the anger of people who voted for Le Pen and Mélenchon,” Haski says. In addition, he says, Le Pen has attempted to cast herself as France’s Trump — the candidate of change — vs. a Hillary Clinton–type opponent — the embodiment of an old establishment. She has said frequently, including to TIME in recent months, that she regarded Trump’s victory as a sign that she too could prevail against all odds.

“She portrays this election as a replay of the U.S. election, Trump vs. Clinton,” Haski says. “That is a trap that Macron does not want to fall into.”

French Elections: Marcon 24%: Le Pen 21.8%: Presidential Election Set For May 7th

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

(CNN) France’s far-right leader Marine Le Pen will face a relative novice, the independent centrist Emmanuel Macron, in the final round of the country’s presidential election, early projections suggest.

According to estimates from CNN affiliate BFMTV and polling company Elabe, newcomer Macron secured 24% of the vote, with National Front leader Le Pen close behind on 21.8%.
The result, if confirmed, is a comprehensive rejection of traditional French politics. Neither candidate hails from the establishment parties that have dominated France for decades.
BFMTV and Elabe suggest scandal-hit conservative François Fillon and far-left wildcard Jean-Luc Mélenchon won 19.9% and 19.3% of the vote respectively, and have been knocked out of the closely-fought race.
Speaking to supporters in Henin-Beaumont, anti-immigration, anti-European Union candidate Le Pen hailed the result: “It is time to free French people from arrogant elites … I am the people’s candidate.”
“The French people must seize this opportunity, because the enormous challenge of this election is the wild globalization that puts our civilization at risk,” Le Pen said.
“Either we continue to disintegrate without any borders, without any controls, unfair international competition, mass immigration and the free circulation of terrorists, or you choose France with borders,” she added.

French presidential candidate for the En Marche! movement Emmanuel Macron shakes hands with supporters after casting his vote in Le Touquet.

A huge cheer went up at Macron’s campaign headquarters as news of the results came through. “France’s political map is tonight redrawn,” said CNN’s Melissa Bell, who was at the scene.
“It’s a political earthquake in this country and in Europe,” veteran journalist Christine Ockrent told CNN. “Macron’s is a remarkable achievement, because he represents optimism.”
Sunday’s first round contest was held under tight security after a terror attack in Paris Thursday night disrupted the final day of campaigning Friday.
By 5 p.m. local time (11 a.m. ET) 69.42% of France’s 47 million registered voters had cast their ballots, according to the Interior Ministry — a marginally lower turnout than at the same point in 2012.
With 11 names on the ballot, no one candidate had been expected to win an outright majority; instead the top two candidates will face a second and final ballot on May 7.

Who is Marine Le Pen?

Who is Marine Le Pen?01:47
The incumbent President, socialist François Hollande, whose approval ratings have remained in the doldrums for several years, made the unusual decision not to run for a second term.
As the results became clear, French politicians and several of the defeated candidates appeared to throw their support behind Macron — or to speak out against Le Pen.
Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve tweeted an appeal to all voters to back Macron in the second round, “to combat the National Front’s disastrous project to take France backwards and to divide the French people.”
The Socialist Party’s candidate, Benoît Hamon secured just 6.3% of the vote, according to BFMTV-Elabe estimates.
Speaking at his campaign headquarters, Hamon said he took full responsibility for the poor result, and urged his supporters to vote for Macron to defeat Le Pen in the second round, “even if he is not left-wing.”
Fillon, the mainstream Republican candidate, was an early favorite for the presidency, but his campaign stumbled because of a scandal over claims he paid his wife and children for work they did not do. He denies any wrongdoing.
He told his supporters, “we have to choose what is preferable for our country, and I am not going to rejoice. Abstention is not in my genes, especially when an extremist party is close to power.”
“The party created by Jean-Marie Le Pen has a history known for its violence and intolerance,” Fillon said. “Its economic and social program will lead our country to failure … I promise you, extremism can only bring unhappiness and division to France.”
Independent centrist Macron, 39, a former banker, has never held elected office, though he served as economy minister under Prime Minister Manuel Valls.

What to know about Emmanuel Macron

What to know about Emmanuel Macron 01:26
But he attracted support from left and right with promises to boost the economy and improve security. His party, “En Marche!” which was only created in September, now has more than 200,000 members and his meetings have attracted vast crowds.
Far-right National Front leader Le Pen, 48, is best known for her anti-immigration rhetoric; she told supporters her first move as president would be to impose a temporary ban on legal immigration to France. She has also vowed to take France out of the EU.
Far-left firebrand Mélenchon has so far refused to concede defeat, insisting it is too early to accept the results.
“We do not recognize the score announced on the basis of opinion polls,” he wrote on Facebook. “The results of the larger towns and cities are not yet known,” he added, calling for “restraint” and urging commentators to “be cautious.”
Mélenchon‘s popularity surged in the final weeks of the race, following impressive performances in the candidates’ television debates.

France on edge as presidential vote looms

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Voting begins in overseas territories in first round of elections, with Sunday’s tight four-way race coming shortly after terror attack

Source: France on edge as presidential vote looms

Reasons Why The Civilized World Should Care About France’s Presidential Election

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

(CNN) A presidential election in France is not usually the sort of thing that I would tell you to pay attention to. After all, it’s hard enough to convince people that they should pay attention to elections in this country.

But, even before the latest terror attack in the country earlier this week, the race to be the next leader of France was one with implications not only for the US but for the rest of the world.
The reason is the presence of Marine Le Pen in the race. Le Pen, who most polls suggest will finish first or second when the first round of voting concludes Sunday night in France, is an avowed nationalist who has taken a hard-line approach on immigration and Islamic terrorism.
In the wake of the shootings on the Champs Elysees Thursday that left a police officer dead, Le Pen called for the closing of all “Islamist” mosques in the country and the immediate expulsion of those on France’s equivalent of a terror watch list.

exp GPS Bernard-Henri Levy France attack election_00011201

 How French terror attack will change election

That episode is widely speculated as likely to aid Le Pen in the final hours of the campaign, reinforcing the dangers posed by terrorism. (ISIS has claimed credit for the attack.) President Trump joined that speculation in an interview with the Associated Press Friday in which he said the latest attack will “probably help” Le Pen.
“[Le Pen] is strongest on borders, and she’s the strongest on what’s been going on in France,” Trump said.
Trump’s comments about Le Pen came just a day after former President Barack Obama called Emmanuel Macron, the center-left candidate seen as Le Pen’s sturdiest challenger.
“The main message that I have is to wish you all the best in the coming days,” Obama can be heard telling Macron in a recording of the video the candidate posted on Twitter Thursday. “Make sure you that, as you said, you work hard all the way through. Because, you never know — it might be that last day of campaigning that makes all the difference.”
Even before Trump and Obama got involved in the French election, it was already regarded as the latest test of the sweeping global populism that led to Britain’s stunning break from the European Union and Trump’s staggering victory stateside last November. Le Pen has positioned herself as a strident nationalist who believes immigration has eroded the idea of France and that it needs to be seriously curtailed.
No one — including Le Pen — is expected to win the 50% of the vote necessary to win the presidency outright on Sunday. (Aside from Le Pen and Macron, Francois Fillon, the center-right candidate, and Jean-Luc Melenchon, the far-left candidate, are expected to draw significant support in the first round of voting.)
A runoff between the top two vote-getters would be on May 7. If, and this looks likely if the polls are to be believed, that runoff features Le Pen against Macron, you can expect to hear a lot more about the French election and what it all means for the global populist movement that delivered Donald Trump to the White House in the coming weeks.

World leaders for Silk Road talks

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI DAILY NEWS)

World leaders for Silk Road talks

The Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation will be held from May 14 to 15 in Beijing and President Xi Jinping will attend the opening ceremony and host the round table summit of the leaders, Foreign Minister Wang Yi said yesterday.

Xi has championed the “One Belt, One Road” initiative to build a new Silk Road linking Asia, Africa and Europe, a landmark program to invest billions of dollars in infrastructure projects.

China has dedicated US$40 billion to a Silk Road Fund and the idea was the driving force behind the establishment of the US$50 billion Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

Among those attending will be Russian President Vladimir Putin, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and Indonesian President Joko Widodo will also be attending the forum.

British finance minister Philip Hammond will come as Prime Minister Theresa May’s representative, while Germany and France will send high-level representatives.

Wang confirmed Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte as one of the leaders coming, along with the Spanish, Greek, Hungarian, Serb and Polish prime ministers and Swiss and Czech presidents.

“This is an economic cooperation forum, an international cooperation platform that everyone is paying attention to, supports and hopes to participate in,” Wang said.

“One Belt, One Road is to date the most important public good China has given to the world, first proposed by China but for all countries to enjoy,” said.

“The culture and historical genes of One Belt, One Road come from the old Silk Road, so it takes Eurasia as its main region,” he said, adding that representatives of 110 countries would attend the forum.

A section of the New Silk Road is in Pakistan, where some projects run through the disputed Kashmir region.

Wang dismissed concerns, saying the Pakistan project had no direct connection to the dispute and India was welcome to participate in the New Silk Road.

“Indian friends have said to us that One Belt, One Road is a very good suggestion,” he said.

During the forum, China is expected to sign cooperative documents with nearly 20 countries and more than 20 international organizations, Wang told reporters.

China will work with countries along the route on action plans concerning infrastructure, energy and resources, production capacity, trade and investment, which will help to turn the grand blueprint into a clear roadmap, he said.

Another task of the forum will be to push forward delivery of cooperative projects, Wang said.

During the forum, parties will identify major cooperative projects, set up working groups and establish an investment cooperation center.

China will also work with all parties on a set of measures that will include improved financial cooperation, a cooperation platform for science, technology and environmental protection, and enhanced exchanges and training of talent.

Participants will sign financing agreements to support their cooperative projects, Wang said.

China will use the forum to build a more open and efficient international cooperation platform; a closer, stronger partnership network; and to push for a more just, reasonable and balanced international governance system, Wang said.

Trump Was Right to Strike Syria

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT AND THE NEW YORK TIMES)

Opinion

Trump Was Right to Strike Syria

President Trump’s air strikes against Syria were of dubious legality. They were hypocritical. They may have had political motivations.

But most of all, they were right.

I’m deeply suspicious of Trump’s policies and competence, but this is a case where he is right and Barack Obama was wrong. Indeed, many of us believe that Obama’s worst foreign policy mistake was his passivity in Syria.

But Trump changed US policy 180 degrees after compelling photos emerged of children gassed in Syria. Should a president’s decisions about war really depend on the photos taken?

Here’s why I believe he was right.

Since the horrors of mustard gas during World War I a century ago, one of the world’s more successful international norms has been a taboo on the use of chemical weapons. We all have an interest in reinforcing that norm, so this is not just about Syria but also about deterring the next dictator from turning to sarin.

For an overstretched military, poison gas is a convenient way to terrify and subdue a population. That’s why Saddam Hussein used gas on Kurds in 1988, and why Bashar al-Assad has used gas against his own people in Syria. The best way for the world to change the calculus is to show that use of chemical weapons carries a special price — such as a military strike on an airbase.

Paradoxically, Assad may have used chemical weapons because he perceived a green light from the Trump administration. In recent days, Rex Tillerson, Sean Spicer and Nikki Haley all suggested that it was no longer American policy to push for the removal of Assad, and that may have emboldened him to open the chemical weapons toolbox. That mistake made it doubly important for Trump to show that neither Assad nor any leader can get away with using weapons of mass destruction.

Look, for a Syrian child, it doesn’t matter much whether death comes from a barrel bomb, a mortar shell, a bullet, or a nerve agent. I hope Trump will also show more interest in stopping all slaughter of Syrians — but it’s still important to defend the norm against chemical weapons (the United States undermined that norm after Saddam’s gas attack by falsely suggesting that Iran was to blame).

Critics note that Trump’s air strikes don’t have clear legal grounding. But Bill Clinton’s 1999 intervention to prevent genocide in Kosovo was also of uncertain legality, and thank God for it. Clinton has said that his greatest foreign policy mistake was not intervening in Rwanda during the 1994 genocide; any such intervention also would have been of unclear legality — and the right thing to do.

There are risks ahead, of Russia or Syria targeting American aircraft or of Iran seeking revenge against Americans in Iraq. War plans rarely survive the first shot, and military interventions are easier to begin than to end. But as long as we don’t seek to topple Assad militarily, everybody has an interest in avoiding an escalation.

Many of my fellow progressives viscerally oppose any use of force, but I think that’s a mistake. I was against the Iraq war, but some military interventions save lives. The no fly zone over northern Iraq in the 1990s is one example, and so are the British intervention in Sierra Leone and French intervention in Mali. It’s prudent to be suspicious of military interventions, but imprudent to reject any use of force categorically.

Want proof that military interventions in the Middle East can work? In 2014, Obama ordered air strikes near the Syria-Iraq border against ISIS as it was attacking members of the Yazidi minority. Those US strikes saved many thousands of Yazidi lives, although they came too late to save thousands more who were killed or kidnapped as slaves.

In Syria, the crucial question is what comes next.

There’s some bold talk among politicians about ousting Assad from Syria. Really? People have been counting on Assad’s fall for six years now, and he’s as entrenched as ever.

Moreover, if this was a one-time strike then the larger slaughter in Syria will continue indefinitely. But I’m hoping that the administration may use it as a tool to push for a ceasefire.

The New York Times

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