Leaders of Germany, Spain and Portugal urge French to vote for Macron

The leaders of Germany, Portugal and Spain on Thursday urged France to back centrist President Emmanuel Macron against far-right leader Marine Le Pen in elections this weekend, in a highly unusual intervention in the domestic politics of a fellow EU state.

Leaders of Germany, Spain and Portugal urge French to vote for Macron
Left to right, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and Portugal's Prime Minister Antonio Costa have written an open letter urging support for Emmanuel Macron in the French elections. Photo by Geert Vanden Wijngaert / POOL / AFP

The run-off vote on Sunday is “for us not an election like others,” German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa and Spanish Premier Pedro Sanchez wrote in the Le Monde daily

France faces a “choice between a democratic candidate… and a candidate of the extreme right who openly joins ranks with those who attack our liberty and democracy,” they said.

They expressed hope the French will choose a France that has been a “beacon of democracy”.

“It is this France that is also on the ballot paper on April 24th,” they said.

The three leaders said that populists and extreme right figures across Europe had turned to Russian President Vladimir Putin as an “ideological and political model and echoed his nationalist claims.”

Le Pen met Putin in the Kremlin in 2017 and accepted Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea, while her party also took a loan from a Russian-Czech bank.

She has since changed her tone and condemned the invasion, a stance she repeated on Wednesday night’s TV debate with Macron.

But the three leaders said: “We should not forget it, even if these politicians now try to take their distance from the Russian aggressor.”

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Spain’s key regional and local elections at a glance

Spain on Sunday May 28th will hold local and regional polls, which are seen as a crucial barometer ahead of a year-end general election.

Spain's key regional and local elections at a glance

What is at stake?

Some 35.5 million people are eligible to vote in 8,131 municipalities across the country to elect over 67,000 councillors. In addition, elections will be held in 12 of Spain’s 17 regions.

Ten are governed by Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s Socialists either alone or as part of a coalition. The main right-wing opposition Popular Party (PP) controls the other two.

READ ALSO: Spain’s PM Pedro Sánchez faces key test in regional elections    

Why the elections matter

Spain is due to hold a general election by the end of the year and Sunday’s polls will give a sense of the electoral mood.

Polls suggest the PP will win the general election but fall short of an absolute majority in parliament.

Sánchez currently governs in a minority coalition with smaller hard-left Podemos.

The election also matters because under Spain’s decentralised form of government, regional authorities enjoy wide powers, especially over education and healthcare.

READ ALSO: Spain’s regional elections: Who will win in each autonomous community?

What do the polls say?

The last poll by the Centre for Sociological Studies (CIS) suggested the Socialists will take 30.2 percent of the vote in the municipal elections, compared to 27.9 percent for the PP – a gap that has been shrinking.

But it is the results of the regional elections which will be watched more closely.

The PP is confident it will win power in up to six regions currently run by the Socialists, a result that would boost the party’s leader, Alberto Núñez Feijóo.

Wrestling control of just four regions would still be considered a success for Feijóo, who took the party’s helm last year.

The performance of far-right Vox will also be closely scrutinised, with the party expected to make gains in several regions. The PP may need the support of Vox to form a working majority in several
regions after Sunday’s election.

Vox currently governs together with the PP in just one region – Castilla y León – which is not voting on Sunday. If Vox enters more regional governments, Sánchez could try to rally support for the year-end election by stepping up warnings that the PP is beholden to the far right.

The battles to follow

In Madrid, there is no doubt that the PP’s ambitious Isabel Díaz Ayuso will be re-elected head of the regional government, but it is unclear whether she will get her desired absolute majority.

In the eastern Valencia region, home to important tourist resorts such as Benidorm, the PP could oust the Socialists both at a regional level and from the city hall in the port city of Valencia – which would be a double blow for Sánchez.

In Barcelona, the race is very tight although some polls suggest the Socialists could win a majority, displacing the left-wing Barcelona en Comu platform which has ruled Spain’s second city in various coalitions since 2015.