Wed, Apr 19, 2017 - Page 6 News List

Le Pen, Macron hold Paris campaigns

TOO CLOSE TO CALL:Just days before first round of voting in the presidential race, polls show frontrunners are not certain to face each other in next month’s runoff

The Guardian

French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron, center, visits the meat paviilon at the Rungis wholesale food market south of Paris yesterday.

Photo: AP

The French presidential election’s two frontrunners on Monday held competing campaign rallies in Paris, as one of the tightest and most unpredictable races in decades entered its final frantic stretch.

With polls suggesting any two of four candidates could make the runoff, centrist Emmanuel Macron filled the 20,000-seat Bercy arena while the far-right’s Marine Le Pen addressed about 5,000 people at the Zenith concert hall later.

“Do you know what’s going to happen next Sunday?” Macron said to a cheering crowd, the largest of his campaign so far. “We are going to win, and it will be the beginning of a new France.

However, despite his supporters’ confidence, the rollercoaster race has narrowed dramatically. Just days from Sunday’s first round of voting and with up to a third of the electorate still undecided, the result is wide open.

The latest polls show Macron and Le Pen clinging on to the narrowest of leads on 22 to 23 percent, while a late surge by hard-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon and scandal-hit rightwinger Francois Fillon appears to be holding, putting both at between 19 and 21 percent.

The pro-European Macron promised to represent an “open, confident, winning France,” in contrast with his far-right and far-left rivals, who he said wanted to isolate the nation from the rest of the world.

“Everywhere, we feel the temptation of barbarism ready to surge in other guises... No, we will not let them do it,” Macron said.

Implicitly referring to Fillon, who is under investigation for abuse of public funds, he suggested some were running for the presidency to gain judicial immunity.

About 400 protesters marched from northern Paris on Monday afternoon to near the Zenith concert hall, where Le Pen’s evening rally was held. Police used teargas to dispel a group of more violent demonstrators, but no arrests were made, officials said.

Le Pen cast the election as a decision between her “patriotism” and her opponents’ “savage globalization.”

“The choice on Sunday is simple: It is a choice between a France that is rising again and a France that is sinking,” she said.

Melenchon, a former socialist minister and Euroskeptic, spent five cheery hours on Monday chugging across the capital from north to south on a canal barge, stopping off at several spots along the way to greet supporters and ending up at the national library.

His late polling surge, and the prospect of him facing off against the equally anti-European Le Pen in the May 7 runoff, prompted outgoing French President Francois Hollande to urge voters and politicians this weekend to “preserve Europe instead of scapegoating it.”

Melenchon told supporters he was not seeking to pull France out of the EU, but would do so if other member states did not agree to negotiate fundamental reforms.

“European treaties are destroying Europe,” he said.

“I am not putting it in danger, I’m not the one who made Britain leave, I’m not the one making trouble in all EU countries, I’m not provoking nationalist feeling everywhere... It’s Europe’s way of organizing that’s pushing people that way,” he said.

The race’s early favorite, Fillon, whose support has edged back up after plunging earlier in the campaign after allegations of a fake jobs scandal, was in Nice to talk law and order in the southern city, where 86 people where killed in a truck attack last summer.

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