Ukraine conflict hijacks French presidential marketing campaign

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The Communist nominee in France’s April presidential election has recommended storming Russian oligarchs’ winter palaces on the French Riviera and handing them over to Ukrainian refugees as candidates scramble to regulate their pitches in a marketing campaign hijacked by the conflict in Ukraine.

With the primary spherical of France’s presidential election less than six weeks away, a lacklustre marketing campaign already overshadowed by the lingering Covid-19 pandemic has been thrown additional astray by Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

Overseas coverage is usually a sideshow in French presidential campaigns, however Europe’s greatest navy invasion since World Struggle II has left France’s presidential hopefuls with no possibility however to enterprise into geopolitics and check their credentials as future commanders-in-chief. 

With a couple of notable exceptions, candidates for the Elysée Palace have scrambled to regulate their schedules, swapping marketing campaign occasions for pro-Ukraine rallies and making an attempt to make clear – or rectify – previous feedback on Russia’s president.

French presidential election © France 24

Fabien Roussel, the Communist Social gathering candidate best known for his defence of French beef, has give you maybe essentially the most eye-catching proposal: requisitioning the Russian elite’s luxurious possessions on the French Riviera.

“Russian oligarchs near Putin personal quite a few billionaires’ villas on the Côte d’Azur. I suggest that the state requisitions them to welcome refugees from Ukraine,” the pinnacle of the Communist Social gathering posted on his Twitter feed on Saturday. He additionally referred to as on all French cities and villages to soak up at the very least one or two Ukrainian households displaced by Putin’s conflict.

Putin sympathisers on the backfoot

Roussel is one in all a number of left-wing candidates polling within the low-single digits within the run-up to the election. They embrace Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo, the struggling Socialist candidate, whose marketing campaign rally in Bordeaux on Saturday was nearly completely centered on the conflict in Ukraine.

Hidalgo’s group had initially envisaged a festive occasion, putting in a big display screen for the group to look at France’s Six Nations rugby match towards Scotland. As an alternative, the stage was decked within the blue-and-yellow flag of Ukraine, whereas Hidalgo’s speech was rewritten from begin to end.

Showing on stage with a younger Ukrainian lady, the Socialist nominee referred to as for steeper sanctions towards Russia and urged the European Union to launch a fast-track membership course of for Kyiv. She additionally lambasted rivals accused of sympathising with Putin’s Russia – in a tactic mirrored by different mainstream candidates.

>> Ukraine crisis highlights stark divisions among France’s presidential candidates

On the precise of the political spectrum, conservative candidate Valérie Pécresse stated these “who defended” the Russian chief prior to now had been “now discredited to manipulate France”. The jab was aimed toward far-right pundit Eric Zemmour, who has often expressed his admiration for Putin’s nationalist pitch, and Nationwide Rally chief Marine Le Pen, who famously paid Putin a go to through the 2017 presidential marketing campaign.

Quizzed on the matter on the weekend, Le Pen stated the invasion of Ukraine had “partly modified [her] opinion of Putin”, accusing the Russian chief of “crossing a crimson line”. Like Zemmour, nonetheless, she warned towards imposing crippling sanctions on Russia, which she stated would harm the French public too.

Macron’s ‘bow and arrow’

Even earlier than Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, galloping inflation had pushed the price of residing to the highest of French voters’ issues – forcing President Emmanuel Macron’s authorities to take pressing measures to shore up residents’ buying energy. 

The conflict in Ukraine has allowed Macron, who’s but to declare his candidacy, to stay above the fray and make use of his presidential prerogatives. Nonetheless, it has additionally sophisticated the matter of how and when he ought to declare his re-election bid, with simply days to go earlier than a March 4 deadline.

On Saturday, Macron made a quick go to at France’s annual farming truthful in Paris – historically a can’t-miss event for incumbent presidents and challengers alike. He warned that the battle in Ukraine “will final” and “we should put together to face the implications”.

Worldwide protests happen in solidarity with Ukraine

One candidate sure to skip the agricultural truthful was leftist firebrand Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who has refused to change his marketing campaign over the conflict in jap Europe. Touring the Indian Ocean island of La Réunion on the weekend, Mélenchon stated: “In a democracy, we don’t simply cease as a result of Russia has invaded Ukraine.”

Like Zemmour and Le Pen, Mélenchon has confronted a barrage of criticism for the reason that begin of Russia’s navy offensive, with critics rounding on his current remarks that NATO had provoked Putin with plans to “annex Ukraine”. 

Whereas criticising the Kremlin’s “insufferable” assault on Ukraine, Mélenchon caught to his “non-aligned” pitch on Sunday, stressing that France ought to keep away from the tussle between Russia and the US-led Atlantic alliance. He additionally slammed the French authorities’s choice to ship defensive navy tools to Ukraine, urging Macron to press for a ceasefire as a substitute of “gesticulating like a bit boy with bow and arrows”.

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