Sat, May 06, 2017 - Page 7 News List

French presidential race ends amid high tensions ahead of Sunday vote

AFP, PARIS

French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron waves to supporters yesterday during a campaign visit in Rodez, France.

Photo: EPA

France’s presidential race wrapped up a tense campaign yesterday after frontrunner Emmanuel Macron filed a legal complaint over rumors that he has an offshore account and both candidates met a stormy reception during final rallies.

Macron and his far-right rival Marine Le Pen had scheduled several news interviews for yesterday, the last day of official campaigning before Sunday’s run-off vote.

At a final rally on Thursday in the northern village of Ennemain, anti-immigration candidate Le Pen told supporters she would give them back the keys to the Elysee Palace.

At an earlier stop in the western town of Dol-de-Bretagne, protesters threw eggs at her entourage, although she was not hit.

During a final rally in the southwest town of Albi, pro-European centrist Macron told cheering supporters: “We will keep our promise of change to the end.”

However, the former French economic minister was criticized by about 50 union activists who demanded the abolition of France’s controversial labor reforms from last year.

Macron on Thursday filed a legal complaint after Le Pen repeated rumors that he had an offshore account during a particularly bruising televised debate.

“I hope that we will not find out that you have an offshore account in the Bahamas,” Le Pen said during the debate, which was her last chance to narrow the gap.

Macron would win about 60 percent to Le Pen’s 40 percent if the vote were held now, surveys suggest.

Macron described his rival’s insinuation as “defamation” and after his complaint, French prosecutors launched a probe into who started the rumor.

Macron’s campaign team called it a “textbook case” of “fake news,” saying it was spread on Twitter by accounts close to Kremlin-friendly news sites like Sputnik and RT as well as supporters of US President Donald Trump.

Meanwhile, Le Pen’s National Front party said her campaign Web site had been repeatedly targeted by a hacker close to the far-left, who was arrested last week.

During the debate, Le Pen branded Macron “the candidate of the elite” while he called her “the high priestess of fear.”

After the bruising confrontation, a snap poll by French broadcaster BFMTV found that nearly two-thirds of viewers thought Macron was the “most convincing” of the two, mirroring forecasts for the election on Sunday.

The aggressive and often unruly debate shocked many observers used to a more reserved tone in French political discourse.

The Elabe poll for BFMTV showed that Macron had convinced 63 percent of viewers compared to 34 percent for Le Pen, suggesting she did little to win over new voters.

Le Pen tried to portray Macron as being soft on Islamic fundamentalism, playing to the concerns of many of her supporters after a string of terror attacks in France.

However, Macron was in combative form throughout, repeatedly portraying Le Pen’s proposals as simplistic, defeatist or dangerous and targeting her proposals to withdraw France from the euro.

The euro policy “was the big nonsense of Marine Le Pen’s program,” he said.

The euro is “the currency of bankers, it’s not the people’s currency,” Le Pen said.

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