Macron’s ally launches scathing attack on Marine Le Pen
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On Sunday, April 10, France headed to the polls to vote for the nation’s next president in the French election, and the current centrist French leader Emmanuel Macron of En Marche! and his far-right rival Marine Le Pen of the National Rally came out on top. Both candidates will now be hoping to sway voters to back them at the runoff vote on Sunday, April 24, and Mr Macron will be hoping to seize victory and become the only French president to win re-election in 20 years. But he is facing significant opposition from Ms Le Pen this time around, with polls indicating this election could be a tighter race than what unfolded in 2017.
A poll of voting intentions conducted for French TV station TF1 showed Mr Macron would win a second-round vote on April 24 with just 51 percent of the vote.
As Reuters analysis highlighted, with polls predicting a 51 percent share for Mr Macron and 49 percent for Ms Le Pen, the gap is so tight that victory either way is within the margin of error.
But other pollsters offered a slightly bigger margin in Mr Macron’s favour with up to 54 percent.
And a recent poll of 2,174 respondents between April 10 and 11 by OpinionWay, Kea Partners For Les Echos And Radio Classique, found Mr Macron could win the runoff with 55 percent of the vote.
But these figures are still starkly lower than Mr Macron’s 2017 second-round victory which saw him run away with more than 66 percent of the vote.
In 2017, Mr Macron secured 24 percent in the first round of voting, while Ms Le Pen gained 21.3 percent of the vote.
But as Sunday’s first-round votes have been counted, it seems both candidates were up compared to their first-round vote shares in 2017.
With 97 percent of the votes counted as of Monday morning, Mr Macron had secured 27.6 percent of the first-round votes compared to Ms Le Pen’s 23.4 percent.
The third most popular candidate was the far-left contender Jean-Luc Mélenchon of La France Insoumise, who snatched 22 percent of the vote and will not proceed to the runoff later this month.
After no candidate secured a victory in the first round of 2017’s election, the runoff saw Mr Macron secure victory with a decisive margin.
Ms Le Pen secured just 33.9 percent of the vote, while Mr Macron secured some 10 million extra votes than his rival, taking 66.1 percent of the vote share.
But turnout for Sunday’s vote is thought to have been significantly lower than the 2017 and 2012 elections, with 65 percent of voters casting their ballots by 5pm Paris time, according to the interior ministry.
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And as polling data suggests Mr Macron is not facing a repeat of his overwhelming victory five years ago, the leader himself told supporters on Sunday: “Let’s make no mistake, nothing has been decided yet.”
The pressure is now on for Mr Macron and Ms Le Pen to secure as many votes as possible in the next two weeks, and Mr Macron wasted no time in courting the industrial heartlands of northern France on Monday.
Ms Le Pen won 33 percent of the votes in the northern Hauts-de-France region where Macron is campaigning, but left-wing candidates were close behind – winning a combined 27 to 28 percent of the vote in the area.
The area is clearly a stronghold for Ms Le Pen, but Mr Macron will be hoping to sway northern voters on his stop in Strasbourg on Tuesday, where Mr Melenchon ranked highly with voters.
After five years in office, Mr Macron is hoping to win over voters again by continuing with his liberal and pro-Europe agenda, while Ms Le Pen’s campaign has been built on anti-immigration and Eurosceptic policies.
Mr Macron has fuelled his campaign on key policies, such as progressively raising the retirement age from 62 to 65, and boosting the minimum monthly pension.
Mr Macron has also campaigned for unemployment insurance to be linked to the strength of the economy and to strengthen external borders of the European passport-free area and create a new force to better control national borders.
Ms Le Pen’s policies include ending family reunification policies and restricting social benefits to the French only, and cutting the minimum retirement age to 60 for those who started work before 20.
A ban on Muslim headscarves in all public places, and outlawing events and financing considered to be spreading ‘Islamism’, have also been a key part of Ms Le Pen’s campaign.
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