European elections 2019: More power for Macron?

Did French President Emmanuel Macron win a victory or suffer a defeat in the European Parliament elections? In their analysis of the results, the French media couldn't be more divided.

There is a debate about whether the European elections left Emmanuel Macron a winner or a loser. (© picture-alliance, ZUMA Press)

Despite his best efforts in the European Parliament election campaign, French President Emmanuel Macron and the Renaissance list of candidates he put together with the centre party MoDem and other partners was unable to beat Marine Le Pen's far-right Rassemblement National (RN), which, as in 2014, emerged as the strongest party, this time with 23.31 percent of the vote.

A bitter defeat for the president, the daily paper La Croix commented: "This is a clear warning for Emmanuel Macron, who took a huge risk by putting the focus on the duel between République en Marche and Rassemblement National in the election campaign." The weekly Le Point, however, took a more positive view of the outcome for Macron: "The tiny gap of just 0.9 percent between the two lists is a heavenly surprise after six months of the yellow-vest crisis and what was, quite frankly, a failed campaign. The two political formations will send the same number of MEPs (after the withdrawal of the British MEPs) to Strasbourg."

The shift in the balance of power in the European Parliament will actually enhance Macron's power, L'Opinion underlines: "The French influence, which has been weakened and will be further reduced in the two largest parliamentary groups, the Social Democrats and the Conservatives, by the sterile but large group of RN MEPs, will salvage what can be saved thanks to the indispensable role the Greens and the Liberals will now play. As the largest delegation in the group of the Liberals, LREM will wield most of the French parliamentarians' active influence in Strasbourg."

Mediapart, on the other hand, says Macron weakened his own influence already in the election campaign, which his political opponents claim he postponed deliberately, in particular with the "national debate": "The evasion of the election campaign made it possible to prevent any debate about Emmanuel Macron's results on Europe - which are very poor indeed, not to say non-existent. Worse still: in his two years as president he has squandered much of the enormous political capital he started out with."

Le Figaro, however, believes that Macron's chances on the European stage have substantially improved: "Emmanuel Macron has regained his European energy. He feels strengthened by the election result and is exploiting his advantage to position himself at the centre of the game and gather the new so-called pro-European forces into a large, centrist movement, a 'progressive' majority that can stop those described by the Élysée Palace as 'negative' or 'destructive forces': the nationalists. … Macron's EU partners are waiting impatiently for him. Will he be able to revive the élan he managed to create in 2017?"

After forming a new liberal group with the former Alde parties on the evening of the elections, Macron voiced his opposition to the nomination of Manfred Weber, the EPP's lead candidate, as the new President of the European Commission. His argument: the lead candidate system is a democratic swindle because it lacks a legal basis. And Macron has already chalked up his first victory in the contest over who will succeed Juncker as president, France 24 observed: "The Council has confirmed that the lead candidate principle will not apply automatically."
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Nina Henkelmann

Nina Henkelmann

is the euro|topics correspondent for France and the Francophone communities of Luxembourg, Belgium and Switzerland. She studied Romance languages and literature, cultural studies and communication in Germany and France, and works in media and publicity, language teaching and translation in Germany, France and Italy.

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