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Macron and Le Pen exchange insults ahead of the French election

French President Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen, the far-right leader who is challenging him for the presidency, exchanged insults and accusations on the final day of an increasingly acrimonious campaign ahead of Sunday’s first round of voting.

With the latest polls putting Macron a slim edge when he meets her in the second round on April 24, the centrist President accused Le Pen of lying about the feasibility of her economic plans and of adopting a “racist manifesto” that would split France and eventually lead the country out of the EU.

Le Pen countered that a “very aggressive” Macron was making “extremely outrageous” comments and showing signs of “fever” over her challenge to his re-election bid. She also denied that her program was racist and defended her promise to favor French nationals over foreigners.

“I think Marine Le Pen has a bogus social program because it’s not being funded,” Macron said in an interview with Le Parisien readers, the newspaper published on Friday.

“When she says ‘I’ll increase pensions, relax,’ that’s not true. She lies to people because she won’t. . . Your program will create massive unemployment because it will cause international investors to flee, and it doesn’t make budgetary sense, it won’t work for long.”

Le Pen – who lost to Macron in the second round of the last presidential election in 2017 – has launched what commentators say has been a highly effective campaign in recent months, criss-crossing France to visit small towns, and doing so Problem of rising prices for ordinary choices emphasized people instead of focusing on them anti-immigration politics for which she is better known.

She has promised to eliminate VAT on a basket of “essential” groceries and household goods and says she will encourage companies to increase workers’ wages by up to 10 percent.

Other measures in Le Pen’s program include eliminating income tax for everyone under 30, reducing VAT on energy, and creating a French sovereign wealth fund to foster an economy focused on what she calls “localism,” as opposed to that Macron’s “globalism”.

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She would also slightly reform France’s costly pension system, but not raise the retirement age to 65, as Macron has promised.

At her latest campaign rally in the far-right southern stronghold of Perpignan on Thursday night, she said if elected she would embrace a new economic model based on “small and medium-sized businesses, localism, economic patriotism and independence – independence in energy, industry, science, medicine, agriculture and nutrition”.

Another five years of Macron, Le Pen said, would lead to dismantling of the nation and social devastation. “I don’t hesitate to say it: Mr. Macron failed as head of state,” she added. Her supporters loudly booed the President whenever she mentioned him.

Macron’s poll ratings were boosted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February because he was seen as a reliable leader in times of crisis, but the advantage waned as the war dragged on and fuel and other commodity prices soared.

International diplomacy to help Ukraine and force a Russian withdrawal also left the president little time for campaigning at home, and he admitted on Friday he was going in “even later than I wanted” because of the pandemic and the war had gone racing.

A opinion poll The report released on Friday by OpinionWay-Kéa Partners showed that Macron led the first round with 26 percent of voting intentions, compared to 22 percent for Le Pen and 17 percent for far-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon. In a second-round contest between Macron and Le Pen, the poll showed he won 54-46, down from 66-34 in 2017.

https://www.ft.com/content/c8bf8924-fc4d-4fb4-a6b0-babcb7dfa2fa Macron and Le Pen exchange insults ahead of the French election

Adam Bradshaw

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