Macron and Le Pen start the final sprint in France’s runoff

President Emmanuel Macron has launched a frantic hunt for working-class votes across France to secure victory over his resurgent far-right rival Marine Le Pen in the second and final round of the country’s April 24 presidential election.

Macron traveled Monday to meet with constituents in Denain, a poor post-industrial city in northern France where Le Pen received considerable support, and was due to visit another stronghold of his rival in eastern France on Tuesday.

Le Pen also restarted her campaign on Monday with a planned trip to northern Burgundy to speak to farmers about inflation and the high cost of inputs such as fuel and fertiliser.

In which first round on Sunday, Macron and Le Pen qualified for the runoff with 28 percent and 23 percent of the vote, respectively, as they did in the last election in 2017.

Despite his first-round lead, the Liberal president faces a very close re-election campaign, according to his supporters, as many of those who voted for the 10 eliminated candidates lean toward Le Pen’s protectionist economic policies and brand of anti-immigration, Eurosceptic nationalism .

In Denain, more than a third of eligible residents did not vote at all on Sunday, and of those who did, overwhelmingly voted for Le Pen or the far-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

Both in that city and at the site of Macron’s planned campaign freeze on Tuesday, voters have appreciated Le Pen’s focus on the rising cost of living, particularly the rise in diesel and gasoline prices since the start of the Ukraine war.

Marine Le Pen at her campaign headquarters in Paris
Marine Le Pen arrives at her campaign headquarters in Paris on Monday © Yves Herman/Reuters

Macron will seek to shake off his image as a detached elite and highlight the benefits of his economic reforms and plan for full employment for ordinary people, while pointing out the flaws in Le Pen’s manifesto of inward-looking protectionism and “localism”.

Like Le Pen, he has offered his former rivals a role in running the country in a bid to secure their votes over the next two weeks.

“I am ready to invent something new, to bring together different beliefs and sensibilities to build with them a common project of service to our nation in the years to come,” Macron told his supporters on Sunday evening.

Le Pen continues to speak out against immigration and crime, but reiterated on Sunday night that she wants to become “president of all French”.

Richard Ferrand, leader of Macron’s party in the National Assembly, acknowledged that the president must go beyond a frontal attack on Le Pen’s anti-Muslim and immigrant policies.

“If you tell the French that the extreme right reminds us of the sound of boots on the street, you can see that doesn’t work,” Ferrand told Radio FranceInfo on Monday. “So we need to go deeper and explain what we are proposing and what exactly Ms. Le Pen is proposing.”

Bruno Cautrès, a politics professor at Sciences Po, said the campaign will be “very intense” over the next two weeks. Macron would struggle to convince left-wing voters of his sincerity, and unlike in 2017 – when he was a centre-liberal political newcomer – he now faces an “anti-Macron” front, as does his rival anti-Le Pen front. one that robbed her of victory five years ago.

“And if Macron wins, it won’t be the same victory as in 2017. It will be much harder for him and his reform campaign,” Cautres said. “He has to respond to calls for social justice. . . There will be strong political tensions.”

An anti-Macron protester in Denain
An anti-Macron protester in Denain on Monday © Ludovic Marin/AFP/Getty Images

Even on Sunday’s election night, hundreds of anti-fascist and anti-capitalist protesters had to be dispersed by police after taking to the streets of Rennes and Lyon to commemorate some of the anti-government militants yellow vests (Yellow Vest) demonstrations that have plagued the first half of Macron’s presidency.

Meanwhile, losing candidates and political parties have asked for cash from their supporters. Valérie Pécresse from the conservative Les Républicains fell below the 5 percent threshold above which the state reimburses campaign costs.

She said the party is in a “critical situation” after spending €7 million that would not be repaid, while it took on €5 million of private debt of its own. “I urgently need your help,” she said on Monday. “It’s about the survival of Les Républicains and the republican right.”

Europe Ecologie-Les Verts, the French green party, also said it was in a critical financial position after spending about 6 million euros because its candidate, Yannick Jadot, scored just 4.6 percent. Macron and Le Pen start the final sprint in France’s runoff

Adam Bradshaw

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