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French far-right leader wants EU election to 'beat' Macron

French far-right leader Marine Le Pen launched her campaign for the May 26 European Parliament election on Sunday with an appeal to the broad "yellow vest" protest movement that has rattled the government. Le Pen urged the tens of thousands of protesters who have staged weekly protests against President Emmanuel Macron since November to make the EU vote a referendum on his policies.

Published January 13,2019

France's far-right National Rally party launched its campaign Sunday for this year's European Parliament election, which it and other nationalist, anti-immigration movements hope to dominate.

During a speech in Paris, party leader Marine Le Pen urged voters to seize the May 26 vote as a chance to "beat" French President Emmanuel Macron after weeks of anti-government protests.

"The moment of the big political changeover has come," Le Pen said of the hoped-for wins by nationalist movements like hers.

"What we propose is a quiet transition from the European Union to the European alliance of nations...that will allow us to reconquer our border control, our legislative, budget and monetary sovereignty", she said.

French voters will fill 79 of the European Union legislature's 705 seats. Le Pen's party placed first in France during the 2014 election and has a good chance to do the same this year.

National Rally's campaign slogan was unveiled in giant letters at Sunday's meeting: "We're coming."

Le Pen suggested the yellow vest protests against Macron's economic policies during the last two months could help her populist party at the ballot box. The movement started to oppose fuel tax increases but expanded to challenge government policies seen as favoring the wealthy.

The movement appeared to gain new momentum this weekend. The French Interior Ministry said about 84,000 people turned out on Saturday for the ninth straight round of demonstrations across Franc, up from 50,000 the previous week.

"Today, it's inevitable that the yellow vests are part of the national context and will influence, of course, the elections," National Rally activist William Courtin said at the party meeting. "In our favor, I hope."

The French president's office issued a "letter to the French" from Macron on Sunday evening. He explained how he planned to address the yellow vests movement's concerns through a three-month "grand debate" taking place through meetings in all the country's regions starting this week.

In the letter, Macron encouraged the public to use the debate to express views on four main topics: taxes, public services, climate change and democratic issues.

"That's how I want to turn angers into solutions with you," he wrote.

The French leader said the debate would help the government develop policies and France's position on the European and international scene.