“She wants to leave, but can’t dare to say so, and that’s never a good thing,” she said at a rally in eastern France.
“She says she wants a coalition of nation states, but she’s going to find herself in a corner and she’s going to try to forge an alliance with her friends. It’s going to be a weird club. I don’t think it will.” There is a club that will be good for France. I don’t think it will be good for Europe.”
But Macron, 44, has found it harder and harder in recent weeks to depose Le Pen, who has revamped and softened his image in the five years between losing and going on to attract new voters from across the political spectrum. Went.
Far more privileged than his rival and coming from a Parisian background, he has portrayed himself as the voice of the underdog against the “arrogant” Macron—the establishment’s candidate of choice.
Whatever the outcome of the rematch between the pair, Le Pen’s progress has been remarkable.
His father, Jean-Marie, a xenophobic and anti-Semitic founder of the Front National Party, made the first breakthrough for the far right in France 20 years ago, when he took part in a second round of voting against Jacques Chirac.
He was dropped from 82 percent to 18, but his daughter managed to double that figure five years ago, and this year the gap has narrowed again.
His success has been largely due to his promise to tackle the subsistence crisis, which has hit France as hard as the rest of the world’s major economies and – despite the war in Ukraine – tops voters’ concerns, according to the elections.
A long list of catch-all populist economic policies includes reducing VAT — a broad-based consumption tax on value added to goods and services — on fuel from 20 percent to 5.5 percent and removing it from the list of nearly 100 basic goods. . ,
She wants to encourage companies to increase wages by exempting them from employers’ contributions and exempt all people below the age of 30 from paying income tax.
While Macron wants to raise the retirement age to 65, Le Pen will keep it at its current level of 62 – the lowest in Europe – and lower it to 60 for those who started work before the age of 20. mainly in heavy labour. Business.
Former WTO commissioner and French businessman Pascal Lamy said Macron had presented himself as a centrist, but had not ruled as one.
“Macron is right-wing on some issues and left-wing on other issues,” he said. “He is right wing on economics, and he is left wing on social issues.
And Le Pen, he says, “has a traditional extreme left-wing, sovereignist, protectionist, nationalist agenda” while the essence of his manifesto is also traditionally right-wing, including strong anti-European rhetoric and calling it a good crime against women. promised to make. Wearing a head scarf in public.
On Friday morning at AEST in working-class Arras, a city of about 40,000 people in northern France, Le Pen addressed more than 3,000 voters who had traveled to see him in person. Overburdened security guards searched everyone who entered the convention center and lines ran hundreds of meters outside the door.
Emily, 28, who works in retail, said she had left nearby Lille to hear Le Pen.
“People say he is exactly like his father but he is not,” she said. “He has answers to the problems we are facing. Now even living outside the cities is so expensive. She is offering a better life to the youth.”
Her boyfriend of 26 years, Robin, who studied IT but is currently working in a bar, agreed. Macros are only for the rich. They have increased the price of petrol. They neither care about the youth nor the working class. She is promising to at least make things better.”
The pair did not want their photograph taken as they both come from a long line of Left voters.
They say that, although they know more people who voted for Le Pen this time, there is still some stigma. Most of his family will not vote on Sunday, he said, because they “cannot put up any candidate”.
Pollsters are predicting a higher-than-normal rate for this second round, with about 28.5 percent of the nearly 49 million voters likely to stay at home.
But the same winds that brought about Brexit and helped elect Donald Trump are also blowing through France, as Macron, a former banker, seeks to shake his reputation as the “president of the rich”. Let’s try.
France, like the US, has been divided over free trade, immigration and global markets. Disaffected working class voters in the old industrial areas of the north and east are turning to Le Pen, where for generations he had embraced socialists and even communists.
And the distribution of votes in the first round showed that, as in the US, UK and even Australia, a major change is taking place where geography determines how people live, think and vote.
Those closer to city centers have greater access to services, cultural activities, transport links, hospitals and schools and are more likely to be optimistic about their future. And they are voting for Macron.
Le Pen attacked during his final rally of the campaign, labeling Macron and his media critics “a bunch of sadistic saints”, “merchants of fear” and “blasphemers”.
The National Rally candidate raided against a “global oligarchy”, saying she had hurt French businesses and an “elite” whom she accused of destroying rural life.
“French people, wake up!” he said. He targeted the “system” for chants of “Marine, President, Marine, President”, which, he said, “wraps itself in morality and cripples past politics,” referring to the republic’s former presidents. Huey – Nicolas Sarkozy and François Hollande who have both supported Macron.
He said from the point of view of the opposition camp that he would “lead to separation, strife and abyss”, in contrast to his “family of families that is the nation”.
Macron’s France would be “a nomadic and fluid world”, he said, governed by the “law of the jungle” built on “social contempt, lack of empathy, and cruelty”.
The first signs of change against Macron came in November 2018, with a series of grassroots, populist rallies in small towns and rural France. The so-called Yellow Vest movement took its name from the high-visibility jacket protesters adopted as a symbol of their grievance. They unintentionally hiked car fuel taxes, with supporters donning fluorescent safety vests, which French law requires all motorists to carry.
They were angry at record prices at the pump, with the price of diesel rising nearly 20 percent over the past year to an average of 1.49 euros ($2.20) per liter. Macron then announced further taxes on the fuel from January 2019, in a move he said was necessary to combat climate change and protect the environment.
The protests snowballed into a broader movement against Macron’s perceived bias, favoring the elite and well-off city residents. Lower middle-income workers are outraged that they can barely make ends meet and think they get little public services in exchange for some of the highest tax bills in Europe.
When Macron won the election in 2017 to France saying it needed to change, he pushed through labor reform that made it easier to hire and fire businesses. The unemployment rate fell to the lowest level in 13 years, but suddenly jobs were not as secure as they were before. This increased the concern.
Le Pen has spent the past week trying to keep his grip on several rural and non-industrialized areas, while Macron has focused on more affluent urban areas, talking about climate change and Europe’s future as a As the bloody war is only a few hours away. ,
Macron has an advantage in foreign policy. The rise of authoritarian, populist and nationalist leaders around the world – Trump in the US, Viktor Orban in Hungary and Vladimir Putin in Russia – has been a mixed blessing for Le Pen. His campaigns have been financed by Russian and Hungarian banks, but his association with Moscow has been a source of constant criticism during the past two months.
However, he has benefited from the hatred for his rival felt by the French Left, where Macron is despised as an aristocrat for abolishing the wealth tax.
Dr Marco Duranti, a lecturer in modern European and international history at the University of Sydney, says Macron had created a vacuum on the left and the right wing to tighten his grip on the political centre.
“Voters attracted to populists are angry with these elites, have seen their economic security eroded, and feel themselves ‘losers’ of globalisation,” he said. “Because of these similarities, we should not be surprised if Le Pen echoes Brexit in 2016 and the unexpected victory of Trump’s election.”
The anti-immigrant stance, which has been a hallmark of the National Rally Party since Le Pen’s father founded the National Front in 1972, has been reduced but not taken away.
Macron said this week that Le Pen’s plan to ban Muslim women from wearing scarves in public would trigger a “civil war” in the country, which has the largest Muslim population in Western Europe.
According to the polling firm, Ifop, nearly 70 percent of Muslims voted for the leftist candidate Jean-Luc Mélancheon in the first round, the only leading candidate consistently condemning discrimination against the group. Macron gained 14 per cent and is now aiming to increase it.
It seems a lot of people can just hold their nose and gnash their teeth and vote for Macron.
In a poll of 1,600 people conducted by Ipso this week, 45 percent of voters want Macron to win – half “because he would make a good president” and the other half “to block Marine Le Pen”. One in three – 34 percent – want Le Pen to win and 21 percent didn’t care.
Macron on Saturday morning AEST compared the choice of US voters to Trump being elected to the White House before he was elected, warning that his current voting lead was not a guarantee of victory.
“The next day he woke up with a hangover,” he told French television.
“April 24 will be a referendum for or against Europe – we want Europe,” he said. “There will be a referendum in favor or against April 24″ [the] Secular, united, indivisible France… we are for it.”