Campaign in France: Macron and Le Pen fight for the last votes after the electoral debate | International

Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen launched this Thursday for the last votes they need to become the president – or president – of France for the next five years on Sunday. After a temporary break to prepare for Wednesday’s debate, the only face-to-face of the presidential elections, the campaign has resumed strongly this Thursday. The outgoing president and the far-right candidate have until midnight from Friday to Saturday to convince voters who still doubt, after a dialectical duel that has not been a turning point in the race to the Elysee.

“It is our compatriots who will speak on Sunday. Until the last moment, nothing is won ”, Macron said in his first statements after the electoral face-to-face. “You have to give everything”, agreed -for once- Le Pen before starting his day.

The polls gave the centrist president the winner of Wednesday’s debate: 59% of viewers considered him “more convincing” than his far-right opponent, who obtained the approval of 39% of the audience, according to a survey by the Elabe institute. . Despite this, the debate – which was seen by 15.6 million people, almost a million less than in 2017 – has not marked a turning point in the campaign. Hence, Le Pen and Macron have not been slow to hit the road again.

Both chose “popular” places to scratch those last not insignificant votes, although the polls once again give a wider margin -over 10 points- of advantage to Macron over Le Pen. In any case, very far from the more than 30 points (66% compared to 34%) that it got five years ago, which analysts consider one more example of the success of the normalization process or dediabolization of Le Pen, undertaken a decade ago and intensified in these five years of macronism.

The President of the Republic opted for Saint-Denis, on the outskirts of Paris and with one of the highest abstention rates in France; a multicultural territory with a Mélenchonist vote and that Macron is intensely courting (the leader of France Insumisa, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, won 61% of the votes in the first round in this town). Meanwhile, and before giving his last rally of the campaign in Arras, in the north of the country, a traditional stronghold of the National Rally (RN), Le Pen stopped along the way to get into a bright yellow truck parked in an area rest of carriers in Roya, in the department of Somme, another territory that voted mostly for the ultra candidate. “I am the candidate of the France that works and for whom the Government does not make life easy for her,” she proclaimed after getting off the truck, whose bumper carried a banner lamenting the sentence “to death of truck drivers” that the increase in the price of the fuels.

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Marine Le Pen in a yellow truck shortly before her rally in Arras.
Marine Le Pen in a yellow truck shortly before her rally in Arras. YVES HERMAN (REUTERS)

The far-right leader has made purchasing power the main argument of her campaign. But even though she fared better in Wednesday’s debate than her catastrophic 2017 one, which brought her first Elysée final to an abrupt end and almost ended her political career, Le Pen failed to appropriate the issue that most concerns the public. French in these elections. In fact, in a tense exchange, Macron managed to largely destroy Le Pen’s program and its measures, such as a general reduction in VAT on fossil fuels, which the far-right candidate proposes to combat exacerbated inflation (although less than in other countries such as Spain) due to the pandemic and the war in Ukraine. The latter also served for Macron to launch his harshest —albeit expected— attack on the far-right candidate, who until the war did not hide her closeness to Russian President Vladimir Putin, and whose party has a loan with a related Russian bank. to the Kremlin.

From Roya, surrounded by supporters, Le Pen took the opportunity to criticize her rival’s performance during the debate. “I had before me the usual Emmanuel Macron, very contemptuous, very arrogant. Something that, I think, does not surprise any Frenchman who has suffered in his own flesh that arrogance and contempt for the last five years”, he added in reference to one of the weak points of the president, who made great efforts during the two and a half hours of debate to avoid giving that haughty image that has burdened him throughout his term and that could play against him on Sunday.

For the director of the Europe program at the Montaigne Institute think tank, Georgina Wright, although Le Pen managed to be more “empathetic” than Macron, the debate “has failed to convince the undecided.” “Those who criticize Macron for his arrogance found him insensitive and Le Pen, often criticized for her lack of precision and for her extreme positions, maintained proposals considered extreme, especially in terms of the Islamic headscarf. [que Le Pen confirmó quiere prohibir en los espacios públicos] and immigration, so I don’t think she has managed to convince those who criticize her for it,” she analyzed this Thursday at a meeting with journalists in Paris.

From Saint-Denis, Macron rejected the accusations of arrogance launched by his rival, which he reproached for “not having other arguments” of weight to fight him. “We have shown a lot of respect for each other, but the fact is that we are fighting two projects that are not reconcilable,” said Macron, who met with the mayor of Saint-Denis, the socialist Mathieu Hanotin, as well as with associations premises to “discuss the problem of unhealthy housing and urban renewal projects,” according to the Macronist campaign. Macron’s nods to the left have been constant since the first round, held on April 10, showed that the field on the left, despite being very divided, still has a strong vote base, even key to winning this Sunday. .

Analysts believe that the voters of Mélenchon, who has asked that “not a single vote” of his followers go to Le Pen on Sunday, but who has avoided explicitly requesting the vote for Macron, could decide the balance on Sunday, which for now in any case, he is favorable to the outgoing president, who has an advantage of about ten points over his rival. Solid, but not necessarily irreversible and, above all, much smaller than five years ago.

In recent days, Macron has once again made electoral promises on issues that concern young people —many of whom are very indignant about a second round in which they say they see no great differences between the candidates— and the Mélenchonists, especially in terms of ecology. . Macron reiterated during the debate his proposal to “do twice as much” as in the last five years to fight climate change, ordering his prime minister to deal with the issue as a priority and creating two ministries dedicated to the matter. In view of the environmental loopholes in Le Pen’s program, Macron called this “climate skeptic” on Wednesday night, to which she replied with a “hypocritical climate.”

Posters of the candidates Emmanuel Macron and Marine le Pen, this Thursday in Herbeville.
Posters of the candidates Emmanuel Macron and Marine le Pen, this Thursday in Herbeville.BENOIT TESSIER (REUTERS)

The centrist also managed to get Le Pen to show her cards around an issue, the Islamic veil, which could be a turning point for Mélenchonist voters, often branded as “Islamo-leftists” by Le Pen herself. The far-right candidate reaffirmed that, if she wins, she will ban the Islamic veil in public spaces, something that led Macron to accuse her of “betraying” the universal values ​​that France defends. “The veil is a uniform imposed by Islamists and most women who wear it have no choice, even if they don’t dare say so. It is not admissible, women must be freed, the veil must be prohibited in public spaces”, Le Pen claimed.

“From the veil it has gone to terrorism, Islamism and immigration. You create a system of equivalences that confuses all the problems”, Macron reproached him, who rejected the ban for going against secularism and representing “a betrayal of the French spirit” of the illustration. “With me there will be no ban on veils or kippahs,” Macron insisted, reminding him that Le Pen wants to make France the first country in the world to ban a religious sign on the street. “Has no sense. And it is not feasible, ”he settled.

Despite these taunts, Macron avoided at all times qualifying Le Pen as far right. A strategy that could seek to “not offend” the third of the French who vote over and over again for Le Pen and other ultra candidates, but which, according to Georgina Wright, has contributed to the “normalization” of the extreme right in which she leads The leader of the RN has been working for years. The debate was the “culmination of the project of the extreme right of the last five years: the fact that the RN is perceived as a party almost mainstream and that Le Pen appears as a moderate candidate or, in any case, less radical”, he warns.

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