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Interview: French voters do not want to break with Europe: expert

Xinhua, April 24, 2017 Adjust font size:

After a chaotic campaign for the French presidential elections, the first round of voting placed Emmanuel Macron, a pro-European centrist and newcomer, at the top of the results, an outcome which Jean-Dominique Giuliani, president of the Robert Schuman Foundation, considered a sign of French belief in Europe.

"French voters have clearly indicated that they do not wish to break with the European project," Giuliani told Xinhua in an interview on Monday, a day after the first round of voting in the presidential elections.

"People wish that Europe be relaunched, notably by France; that it be more active there. They expect a more efficient Europe, but have rejected the 'all or nothing' stance proposed by extremist candidates," he added.

For Giuliani, if Macron is elected in the second round of voting on May 7, it would be an affirmation that "France is back in Europe".

He added the first round of voting was an indication that "the rise of populism is not a fatality and that the democratic engagement of citizens in Europe is solid and can resist simplicity".

"After Austria and the Netherlands, France must now prove that it rejects the extremes. These are the stakes for the second round of voting," Giuliani said.

Despite the second-place finish for Marine Le Pen, president of the extreme-right and anti-European National Front party (FN), Giuliani maintained a belief that French voters would not be persuaded by her calls for a France with closed borders.

"Everyone predicted [Le Pen] would be at the top of the list at the end of the first round. It isn't the case. If French voters are angry, worried and dissatisfied, they remain firmly attached to democratic values and stay suspicious of the National Front," he argued.

At the same time, Giuliani remained wary in advance of the second round of voting, saying it would be "more contested than expected".

"France has renounced the two principal parties of government and is therefore exploring terrain unknown until now. And voters unhappy with French governance for several years are angry," he underlined.

"Even so, it doesn't seem to me that they are ready to give themselves over to an extremist candidate. The radical proposals from the National Front candidate worry the French, especially her exaggerated positions on the euro and Europe."

If Macron is elected, he will still face challenges, Giuliani said. "The new president, whoever it may be, must take account of the expression of these dissatisfactions" from French voters.

"The election of a young president should favor the liberation of numerous French economic, intellectual, political and cultural assets and allow France to quickly make up for a lagging behind relative to its immediate neighbors. His success should reduce the strength of the extremists. A failure would reinforce them," he warned.

Final results issued by the French Interior Ministry earlier on Monday showed Macron dominated the vote with 23.75 percent against Le Pen's 21.53 percent. Both will face off in a run-off on May 7.

Pollsters predicted Macron to comfortably defeat the rival in the face-off. Endit