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Saturday, November 26, 2022

France election: Macron on pole position, difficult race for Le Pen

Paris –

French President Emmanuel Macron is in pole position to win the country’s presidential election on Sunday, yet his lead over far-right rival Marine Le Pen depends on a major uncertainty: voters who decide to stay at home. can do.

Macron’s victory in the vote – which could have far-reaching consequences for the future course of Europe and Western efforts to stop the war in Ukraine – would make him the first French president in 20 years to win a second term.

All opinion polls in recent days seem to converge to victory for the 44-year-old pro-European centrist – yet the odds over his nationalist rival vary widely, from 6 to 15 percentage points depending on the poll. The poll also predicted a potentially record-high number of people who would either cast a blank vote or not vote at all.

Overseas French territories allowed voters to begin voting on Saturday at polling stations that ranged from near the Caribbean coast in the Antilles to the savannahs of French Guiana on the South American coast.

Back on the French mainland, activists gathered on a stage under the Eiffel Tower on Saturday where Macron is expected to deliver his speech, win or lose, after the election.

France’s April 10 first-round vote removed 10 other presidential candidates, and who becomes the country’s next leader – Macron or Le Pen – will depend largely on whether supporters of the candidates who lost Sunday. What do you do.

The question is tough, especially for left-wing voters who dislike Macron but don’t want to see Le Pen in power either. Macron has issued a series of appeals in recent days in the hope of garnering support from left-wing voters.

“Think about what British citizens were saying a few hours before Brexit or (people) in the United States before Trump was elected: ‘I’m not going, what’s the matter?’ I can tell you that the next day he regretted it,” Macron warned on France 5 television this week.

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“So if you want to avoid the unimaginable… choose for yourself!” He urged hesitant French voters.

The two rivals clashed in the final days before Sunday’s election, with a one-on-one televised debate on Wednesday. No campaigning is permitted during the weekend, and voting is banned.

Macron argued that a 2014 loan from a Czech-Russian bank to Le Pen’s far-right party made him unfit to deal with Moscow amid the Ukraine invasion. He also said that his plan to ban Muslim women from wearing head scarves in public in France would trigger a “civil war” in the country, which has the largest Muslim population in Western Europe.

“When someone convinces you that Islam is equivalent to Islam, terrorism equals a problem, which is clearly called far-right,” Macron declared on France Inter radio on Friday.

In his victory speech in 2017, Macron promised to “do everything” during his five-year term so that the French “have no reason to vote for the extremists.”

Even after five years, that challenge has not been met. Le Pen has cemented its place on the French political scene after rebranding itself as less extreme.

Le Pen’s campaign this time sought to appeal to voters grappling with rising food and energy prices amid the fallout of Russia’s war in Ukraine. The 53-year-old candidate said reducing the cost of living would be a top priority if she is elected France’s first female president.

He criticized Macron’s “catastrophic” presidency at his last rally in the northern city of Arras.

“I am not even mentioning immigration or security, for which I believe every Frenchman can only note the failure of Macron’s policies … His economic record is also disastrous,” she declared.

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Political analyst Mark Lazar, head of the History Center at Sciences Po, said that even if Macron is re-elected, “there is a big problem,” he said. “The vast majority of people who are going to vote for Macron are not voting for this program, but because they reject Marine Le Pen.”

He said this meant Macron would face a “massive level of mistrust” in the country.

Macron has vowed to transform the French economy to make it more independent while protecting social benefits. He said he would also continue to push for a more powerful Europe.

His first term was rocked by yellow vest protests against social injustice, the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine. It forced Macron to delay a major pension reform, which he said would resume shortly after re-election, gradually raising France’s minimum retirement age from 62 to 65. He says this is the only way to keep the benefits flowing to retirees.

The French presidential election is also being closely monitored abroad.

In several European newspapers on Thursday, centre-left leaders in Germany, Spain and Portugal urged French voters to choose their nationalist rival. He warned about “populists and extreme right-wingers” who position Putin as “an ideological and political model that imitates his conservative views.”

Le Pen’s victory will be a “painful moment, not only for France, but for the European Union and for international relations, especially with the United States,” Le Pen said, noting that Le Pen was “France”. and wants a distant relationship between the USA.”

In any case, Sunday’s winner will soon face another hurdle in governing France: a legislative election in June will decide who controls the majority of seats in France’s National Assembly.

Already, the fight promises to be fought hard.

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Associated Press journalists Katherine Gaschka and Jeffrey Schaefer contributed to that story.

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