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France's Macron dropping in popularity like a rock, while Putin's stock rises?

Shocker, citizens of the EU are 100% behind the Ukraine until it costs them personally. As I'm been saying for a while, best not to poke the bear who controls your energy.


Is Putin's popularity likewise dropping ? Nope, just the opposite. Not that he's needs to worry.


France’s Macron Lost Grip on Parliament Amid Russian Squeeze on Energy Prices

Election defeat is early sign of higher stakes for European leaders as fighting in Ukraine becomes war of attrition


By Stacy Meichtry, WSJ

Updated June 20, 2022 5:19 pm ET


PARIS—The loss of French President Emmanuel Macron’s parliamentary majority is an early sign of how Russia’s squeeze on European energy prices is raising the economic and political stakes for European leaders as the invasion of Ukraine becomes a war of attrition.


Mr. Macron’s party lost dozens of seats in the National Assembly to candidates backed by far-left firebrand Jean-Luc Melenchon and far-right leader Marine Le Pen. Both politicians seized on record-level inflation to portray Mr. Macron as a leader who paid more attention to his role on the diplomatic stage, dealing with the war in Ukraine, than to voters struggling to make ends meet.


Voters across the continent are now starting to feel the economic toll of the conflict, even as public support for Kyiv remains strong. Europeans were already reeling from inflation fueled by supply-chain woes and other factors when Russia’s invasion of Ukraine compounded the pain in Europe. Russia’s naval blockade stopped the flow of wheat and other essentials out of Ukrainian ports, and EU countries prepared to wean themselves off Russian fuel.


Then Russia began throttling the flow of natural gas to Europe last week, sending energy prices even higher and raising the specter that the continent won’t have ample supplies of gas to heat homes and power factories through the winter.


Moscow tightened the gas spigot just days before the final round of France’s parliamentary election and right as Mr. Macron took a high-profile trip to Kyiv alongside German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi. All three leaders backed Ukraine’s candidacy to join the European Union after talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and vowed to support the country’s military effort over the long haul.


France’s hung parliament isn’t expected to tie Mr. Macron’s hands on foreign policy. His party and its allies still have the most seats in the National Assembly. Still, the result requires Mr. Macron to spend more time and energy cobbling together votes to advance his pro-business domestic agenda, including his plans to raise the age of retirement.


Marie-Claude Dautricourt, 76 years old, was worried about the impact the rising cost of living is having on young families. The retiree no longer goes out to eat at restaurants because it is too pricey. On Sunday, she cast her vote for a candidate in Mr. Melenchon’s coalition. “Melenchon cares more about the everyday lives of people than Macron,” she says.


The timing of French elections meant Mr. Macron has borne the brunt of any political fallout from the war among Western leaders. A prolonged conflict, however, risks deepening the economic and political costs beyond France.


In the U.K, tens of thousands of transport workers are set to begin a series of strikes on Tuesday in protest of wage freezes at a time when British inflation has reached a 40-year high. Approval ratings for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson have tanked amid a cost-of-living crisis and anger over his attendance at several parties in Downing Street during Covid-19 lockdowns.


In Germany, Mr. Scholz won’t face reelection for years, but a key regional race is slated for October when pocketbook issues could loom large.


Opinion polls show support for Mr. Scholz’s government has weakened since the start of the war in Ukraine while economic anxieties are on the rise. This month worries about rising prices and rents, as well as falling incomes, topped respondents’ list of concerns, displacing the war in Ukraine for the first time since March, according to a June 17 Politbarometer poll by Forschungsgruppe Wahlen for public broadcaster ZDF.


The same poll showed 85% of respondents expected prices to keep rising and 60% expected the economy to worsen in the coming months, though a majority said they hadn’t seen a deterioration yet. Germans are also skeptical about the outcome of the conflict, with 64% saying they don’t expect the delivery of heavy weaponry will help Ukraine win the war against Russia.


There is no sign yet that German voters’ concerns about the economy are translating into weakening support for Ukraine. On the contrary, Mr. Scholz—who has faced criticism from Kyiv for what it and many allies see as Berlin’s insufficient support of Ukraine—has seen his approval ratings fall, whereas those of the more hawkish Green party leaders in the government have risen.


Italy is due to hold elections early next year, with a right-wing alliance long expected to win.


Italians have been among Europe’s most ambivalent nations about supporting Ukraine’s defense against Russian invasion. Although most Italians blame Russia for the war, surveys show many Italians are skeptical about sending Ukraine weapons and would support a cease-fire, even if it left Russia occupying large parts of Ukraine.


Still, energy and food prices and the war in Ukraine have had relatively little effect so far on Italian politics, where a trend continues that has been apparent for many years: Voters are casting around for an untested political leader who hasn’t yet been tainted by the difficulties of governing Italy, whose economy has stagnated for the past quarter-century.


France’s parliamentary races were also shaped by other forces, from anxieties about immigration to opposition to Mr. Macron’s plans to raise the age of retirement. Taming inflation, however, topped the list of voter concerns by far. A poll taken by Harris Interactive during the first round of voting on June 12 said 53% of respondents considered the loss of purchasing power a top issue in the election. Healthcare finished second with 38%, while only 10% of respondents considered the war in Ukraine a top issue.


Voters also didn’t punish parties that have taken a more dovish stance on Russia than Mr. Macron. Ms. Le Pen has condemned Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine while also claiming “everybody has a form of admiration for Mr. Putin.” Her party also took a campaign loan of 9.4 million euros, equivalent to $10.2 million, from a Russian-Czech bank with ties to the Kremlin in 2014. That money is now owed with interest to a Russian defense firm.


On Sunday, Ms. Le Pen’s party managed to win 89 seats, her party’s biggest haul ever. The size of her victory means the party now qualifies for more state funding, as well as more speaking time in Parliament.


Mr. Melenchon narrowly missed qualifying for the runoff of the presidential election in April after vowing to withdraw France from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and questioning whether the U.S., not Russia, was to blame for the buildup of Russia’s military along Ukraine’s border before the invasion.


On Sunday, however, his umbrella coalition won at least 131 seats, though it remains unclear whether its myriad parties—including greens, communists and socialists—will caucus together.


Mr. Melenchon said Mr. Macron’s recently appointed prime minister, Elisabeth Borne, should call a confidence vote before the newly elected National Assembly.


Mr. Macron has yet to address the loss of his majority. His finance minister—who once described the West’s sweeping sanctions on Moscow as part of an “all-out economic and financial war on Russia’’—on Sunday said: “We are facing a democratic shock.”


Noemie Bisserbe, Bertrand Benoit and Marcus Walker contributed to this article.


Corrections & Amplifications

Marie-Claude Dautricourt, 76 years old, was worried about the impact the rising cost of living is having on young families. An earlier version of this article incorrectly spelled her name Marie-Claude Dutricourt. (Corrected on June 20)

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