National Front’s Marine Le Pen of France leads anti-EU drive

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VILLERS-COTTERÊTS, France — Marine Le Pen, leader of France’s far-right National Front, doesn’t typically draw votes from people like Marius Pigoni.

For decades, the 80-year-old sawmill owner voted for moderate politicians who espoused the European ideal of building an economic bloc free from the nationalist forces that drove the continent into two world wars.

But as people in the European Union’s 28 member countries vote on a new European Parliament, Mr. Pigoni’s focus is a worry that his sawmill business will be ruined by low-cost imports, including from Eastern Europe.

Ms. Le Pen is leading a campaign to abolish the EU. She is getting Mr. Pigoni’s vote.

“As someone who saw the war, I can tell you the EU was a great idea,” he said. “But now it’s become a farce. We’re broke and we’re offering billions to Ukraine.”
With many EU members’ economies still limping, the bloc has yet to demonstrate an ability to halt the ravages of the sovereign-debt crisis, making this election a crucial test.

Although the elections are for the European Parliament, they are likely to have effects on national governments in some countries. In Italy, the expected rise of anti-EU movements could endanger the frail coalition supporting the government of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. In France, fallout may be more limited because President François Hollande reshuffled his government after his Socialist Party suffered a stinging defeat in local elections in March.

For Ms. Le Pen, uniting Europe’s unruly protest parties under a single banner is likely to be a daunting task. The parties, ranging from Italy’s Northern League to Austria’s FPÖ to the Sweden Democrats, are often focused on issues local to their regions and share little beyond a desire to disband the EU. They began as fringe groups, and some still are.