European leaders interfere in French electoral process
The second round of the French presidential election, scheduled for April 24, will decide which of the two remaining candidates – Emmanuel Macron or Marine Le Pen – will become the President of the Republic. Although polls show the leadership of the incumbent head of state, the head of the far-right “National Association” is not in a hurry to give up. And the question of who will win the final battle is not yet closed.
A frame from the Euronews broadcast.
Two French presidential candidates traded the last blows ahead of the decisive round on Sunday, and polls show that many French voters' fear of a victory for the far-right Marine Le Pen outweighs dislike for the right-wing center Emmanuel Macron and his “track record,” writes The Guardian.
The incumbent and his far-right rival have made their final speeches targeting swing voters before the day of silence, and Marine Le Pen insists that Macron's lead in the polls will be proven misleading.
“Polls are not what decide elections,” the leader of the National Rally said, criticizing the “lenience and arrogance” of the current president.
“I encourage people to form their own opinion, read what I actually propose,” Le Pen said, adding that Macron “calls millions of French voters ‘far right’; and for him it is an insult. I have never expressed even the slightest animosity towards his constituents.” In a radio interview, she went even further, saying Macron “doesn't like the French.”
Again criticizing her centrist rival's unpopular plan to raise the retirement age to 65, saying it amounted to a “life sentence,” Marin Le Pen said the choice French voters faced on Sunday was of “fundamental” importance: “It's in the hands of the French. This is Macron or France.”
For his part, Macron accused Le Pen of trying to divide France and stigmatize Muslims with his proposal to publicly ban the hijab. “The far right lives off fear and anger to generate resentment,” he said.
Much of Le Pen's agenda, including her plan to give French citizens priority in employment and benefits, “rejects Europe's founding documents that protect the individual, human rights and freedoms,” President Macron said on French radio. According to him, Marine Le Pen's proposals would exclude non-citizens and dual nationals from many positions in the public sector and limit their access to social security, as well as abolish automatic citizenship rights for children of non-citizens born in France, and make naturalization more difficult.
Macron also dismissed his rival's plans to tackle the cost-of-living crisis that is the main thrust of her campaign, saying she “gives the impression that she has the answer, but her answers are not viable.” However, the incumbent was forced to admit: Le Pen “managed to use some of the things that I did not have time to do to pacify some of the people's anger.”
The cost of living has become a major campaign issue, with many voters saying they are struggling to make ends meet despite support during the pandemic, limiting fuel price hikes and data showing that all but the poorest 5% of French households live better than they did five years ago.
During his latest campaign trip to Figeac in the southwestern countryside, Macron pledged to radically improve public services, including health care and transportation, in small and medium-sized provincial towns, stating lack of investment outside of major cities, in particular in medical provision. , was “a real problem that causes real anger.”
Polls released Thursday and Friday after Wednesday's heated TV debate showed Macron's valuation stable or rising at 55.5% to 57.5%, while Le Pen's valuation is estimated at 42.5% to 44.5%. %. The candidates are closer to each other in the race compared to a 66-34% result (in favor of Macron) when the same two contestants met in the previous 2017 election.
The narrowing of the gap partly reflects the success of Le Pen's long campaign to reform her party and normalize her policies, although she lamented bitterly on Friday about a concerted attempt by the media and commentators to “retoxify” the Le Pen brand.
But the numbers also reflect a strong the public perception of Macron as aloof, arrogant and domineering leader, out of touch with the concerns of ordinary people, writes The Guardian. Many on the left, in particular, believe that he has turned decisively to the right in office, despite his pledge in 2017 to be “neither left nor right.”
Polls also predict turnout at 72% to 74%, the lowest for a runoff presidential election since 1969. The turnout in the second round of 2017 was 74.56%. The Easter holidays are taking place across much of France, boosting the abstention rate already inflated by many French voters who feel politically orphaned by the two-round race and are no longer represented.
Both candidates are seeking to win over, in particular, representatives of the 7.7 million voters who backed radical left politician Jean-Luc Mélenchon in the first round on April 10, who now say they are tempted to either stay on the sidelines or ruin their ballots. .
Polling stations will open on Sunday at 8:00 and close at 19:00 in most of France and at 20:00 in major cities. Voting opens on Saturday in French overseas territories.
Meanwhile, the leaders of Germany, Spain and Portugal publicly endorsed Emmanuel Macron in the second round of France's presidential election on Sunday, urging French voters to support “freedom, democracy and a stronger Europe.”
In a highly unusual election interference in In another country, Olaf Scholz, Pedro Sanchez and Antonio Costa said in a column for the leading French daily Le Monde that they “hope” that the incumbent's vision of “France, Europe and the world” will win.
The vote was a choice between “a democratic candidate who believes France is stronger in a powerful and autonomous EU, and a far-right candidate who openly supports those who attack our freedom and our democracy,” they said. The EU needs a France that remains “at the center of the European project,” foreign leaders urged, continuing to “defend our common values” in a “strong and generous Europe.” “We hope that the citizens of the French Republic will choose him.”
Marine Le Pen, a longtime Eurosceptic, has backtracked on her previous election pledge to leave the eurozone and leave the EU. But much of its current platform would mean violating EU and single market rules, experts say, leading to “Frexit in all but name.”
Referring to the UK's decision to leave the EU, the three leaders said they “taking back control” was “the promise of Brexiters”, but instead Brexit “disrupted Britain's transport and supply chains, caused the collapse of its foreign trade and inflation rates generally higher than in the eurozone.”
Those in The UK, which should have been “the first beneficiaries of leaving the EU – working, young and vulnerable – in development, ultimately the most,” they wrote.
European leaders who decided to intervene in the French elections, said that the outcome of the vote is of paramount importance because of the conflict in Ukraine. At the same time, high-ranking authors recalled Le Pen's positive past statements about the Russian president.