Support for far-right candidate Marine Le Pen at record high ahead of French election
With less than 48 hours to vote in the first round, the race to lead the eurozone’s second-largest economy seemed to go to the two finalists in the 2017 election.
A poll on Friday showed the tightest gap on record, with Ms Le Pen winning 49% of the vote in a likely runoff against the president, her best poll score ever.
showed that Mr Macron had lost an additional two points at 26% support and Mrs Le Pen had gained two points at 25%.
Hours before candidates and their aides were required by French electoral law to refrain from making political statements until the close of election offices on Sunday evening, there was a growing sense of discomfort among supporters of Macron.
“I think everything will be fine, but it will be difficult,” a minister, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Reuters.
Campaign insiders say Mr Macron must urgently appeal to the widest possible voter base ahead of the first round, as arriving behind Ms Le Pen on Sunday would give him a strong boost ahead of the second round.
Marine Le Pen has centered her offer on purchasing power, softening her image and tapping into promises to cut taxes and increase some social benefits, worrying financial markets as she gains ground in the polls .
The radical and outspoken views of rival far-right candidate Eric Zemmour helped her appear more dominant and many left-leaning voters told pollsters that, unlike in 2017, they would not vote in the second round to keep Ms Le Pen out of power.
“They won’t necessarily vote for Marine Le Pen, but they don’t want to vote for Emmanuel Macron,” said Jean-David Levy, deputy director of the Harris Interactive polling institute.
“Never before has Marine Le Pen been so capable of winning a presidential election.”
Regrets the delay of the campaign
Some in the president’s camp have complained of a lack of preparation, as his team has spent most of the past few months dealing with the war in Ukraine.
Mr. Macron regretted Friday having joined the race much later than his competitors.
“So it’s a fact that I entered (the campaign) even later than I wanted to,” Mr Macron said, adding that he retained a “spirit of conquest rather than defeat”.
“Who could have understood six weeks ago that all of a sudden I would be triggering political rallies, that I would be focusing on domestic issues when the war started in Ukraine,” Macron told RTL radio earlier. friday.
Mr Macron, who has spent the past five years courting the centre-right, suddenly changed course, telling voters he would protect them more from the rising cost of living and the dangers of Mrs Le Pen, whom he called racist.
“Its fundamentals have not changed: it is a racist program which aims to divide society and which is very brutal,” Macron said.
Ms Le Pen told Franceinfo TV channel she was “shocked” by the accusation, which she dismissed, calling the president “febrile” and “aggressive”.
She said her platform, which includes adding a “national priority” principle to the French constitution, would not discriminate against people because of their origin, as long as they held a French passport.
In his last scheduled interview before Sunday’s vote, Mr Macron reiterated his warning against the rise of the far right.
“They are playing with fear,” Macron told online media Brut on Friday in a last-minute appeal to young progressive voters. “They make short-term proposals, the financing of which is sometimes completely unclear.”
According to opinion polls, about a third of voters are yet to make a decision, which analysts say often favors candidates with a realistic chance of advancing to the second round, with undecided voters tending to opt for what the French call a “useful vote”, that is to say to vote strategically.
Besides Mr. Macron and Ms. Le Pen, this trend is expected to favor far-left veteran Jean-Luc Melenchon who, also on an upward trend, ranks third with around 17% of the expected votes.