I’m no lame duck, Macron says, vowing to stop Le Pen’s rise

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PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron hit back Wednesday against speculation he has become a lame-duck president paving the way for the far right to come to power, a day after his flagship immigration bill was voted through — with the support of the far-right National Rally.

Macron’s government has been in crisis since his coalition splintered over a bill that was deemed too right-wing by many centrist lawmakers, raising critical questions as to whether he can still govern effectively.

In his first interview since Monday’s vote, the French president denied any long-term damage, even while National Rally leader Marine Le Pen celebrated and cast the toughened bill as an “ideological victory” for her camp.

My majority “hasn’t shrunk,” the French president said on the France 5 TV channel. “I respect the women and men who abstained or voted against the bill, but has one of them left our coalition? Has one of them said I’m breaking away?”

On Tuesday, almost a quarter of the 251 MPs in Macron’s coalition abstained or voted against the immigration bill after it was significantly hardened to win the backing of the conservative Les Républicains party. Health Minister Aurélien Rousseau resigned within 24 hours of the vote, telling journalists he could not “explain the bill.” Meanwhile, the National Rally’s 88 lawmakers voted in favor, in a surprise U-turn that has embarrassed Macron’s troops.

During 10 days of high drama in parliament, Macron’s government lost control of the bill and was forced to accede to mounting requests from conservatives, feeding speculation that the president had finally lost his ability to govern France after his defeat in parliamentary elections last year.

But on Wednesday, Macron appeared bullish and dismissed those doubts: “I haven’t finished the work. I still have three and a half years ahead of me, and let me tell you, I’m not stopping now,” he said.

The French president also pushed back against accusations he was encouraging the rise of the far right, despite Le Pen’s gleeful claims of victory.

The latest version of the immigration bill includes a host of measures to curb illegal migration, including quotas limiting the number of arrivals in France and tighter conditions for family residency permits. One of the most contentious measures is an imposed five-year wait for legal immigrants who wish to apply for social security benefits, which can be reduced to 30 months if the applicant has a job.

Macron argued that tackling the core issues of the far right — security and immigration — was the only way to stop the National Rally, which is rising in the polls.

“If you want to stop the National Rally coming to power, you have to tackle the problems that are feeding it. And what is feeding the National Rally is the impression that our answers [on migration] are not efficient,” he said.

Macron insisted he was working on exactly the sort of legislation needed to keep the right at bay.

“What we are doing with Europe, the migration pact, and this law, will very clearly help us fight trafficking networks, will help us deport people who are illegally on French soil … that’s what I call efficiency,” he added.

PRESIDENT EMMANUEL MACRON APPROVAL RATING

For more polling data from across Europe visit POLITICO Poll of Polls.



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