French far-right makes big demands on Macron after small win

French far-right makes big demands on Macron after small win
Far-right National Party leader Marine le Pen delivers a speech at the campaign headquarters, Sunday, May 26, 2019 in Paris. Exit polls in France indicated that Marine Le Pen's far-right National Rally party came out on top, in an astounding rebuke for French President Emmanuel Macron, who has made EU integration the heart of his presidency. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

PARIS (AP) — If French far-right leader Marine Le Pen gets her wish, her National Rally party, victorious in the European Parliament election, will force a dissolution of France’s own parliament and lure opponents to her cause, enlarging her base. But there’s one major roadblock: French President Emmanuel Macron.

His government immediately made it clear Monday that Macron won’t dissolve the National Assembly and will continue to implement planned reforms.

Le Pen narrowly defeated Macron’s centrists — by just under a one-point margin — in France’s European Parliament vote Sunday — a ballot that was also considered a very timely national survey of the two rivals. It fueled Le Pen’s vision of creating a nationalist force that counts in both France and Europe.

Her National Rally and Macron’s Republic on the Move parties both captured 23 seats in the European Parliament — one less than her party won in the 2014 election it handily won. But Sunday night’s win had added value because her main opponent was the president of France and her populist allies in Europe, on a roll but not a wave, opened the door to enlarging their small group in the European Parliament — a potential double win.

The strongly pro-EU Macron considers his party’s score honorable, given that European elections have often served domestically as a protest vote. The president has faced down weekly protests for six months from the grassroots yellow vest movement, seeking social and economic justice that protesters say cannot be found in the economic changes Macron is taking to modernize France’s economy. The critics see Macron as “president of the rich.”

Le Pen insisted she wasn’t seeking revenge against Macron, who defeated her in France’s 2017 presidential election.

“I’m not at all in the spirit of revenge,” she told reporters late Sunday. “I’m already in the future, not looking back.”

Macron “put his weight into this battle … and lost,” Le Pen declared.

In addition to saying that Macron must dissolve the French parliament, Le Pen wanted a proportional voting system more favorable to her party put into France’s lower chamber — where she serves as one of eight party lawmakers.

Le Pen is trying to make the most of the narrow victory, claiming the balance of power is shifting in France.

Macron, meanwhile, has made no comment since the election. He was going to Brussels on Tuesday for meetings with European leaders, now focusing on trying to build a pro-European majority at the EU Parliament.

His Republic on the Move party was upbeat despite its second-place status.

Speaking Monday on French news broadcaster BFM TV, government spokeswoman Sibeth Ndiaye said the election outcome did not trigger “a political crisis.”

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said the vote showed that Macron’s centrist party — which was only created in 2016 — is now a “stable and undeniable reality.” But he conceded that the far-right “is rooted in the French political landscape.”

Macron’s party considers the low scores for France’s traditional political parties — from 8% for The Republicans conservatives to 6% for the Socialists — as a positive development for its strategy to build a strong centrist majority.

Indeed, both Le Pen and Macron have their eyes on the future, notably the 2022 presidential election, but also municipal elections next year, then regional voting.

“The French, in the end, will judge us on the results. We had some in the past two years, but clearly not enough,” Philippe said.