Tags: France | Presidential Election

Macron Leads in Final French Polls, Fends Off Attacks From Rivals

Macron Leads in Final French Polls, Fends Off Attacks From Rivals
Emmanuel Macron (Reuters)

Thursday, 20 April 2017 07:27 AM

Emmanuel Macron's rivals are training their fire on the centrist newcomer as opinion polls signal his narrow lead may be firming three days before the first round of France's presidential election.

Nationalist Marine Le Pen and Republican Francois Fillon both attacked the 39-year-old former economy minister saying his ideas are weak and vague. Support for Macron rose one point to 25 percent, while Le Pen was unchanged at 22 percent, according to a poll by Harris Interactive-France Televisions out on Thursday. Fillon slipped one point to 19 percent, level with Communist-backed Jean-Luc Melenchon.

The Bloomberg Composite of first-round polls showed Macron 1.5 points ahead, on 23.9 percent.

The four leading candidates all head into the final hours of campaigning with a chance of qualifying for the run-off on May 7. Surveys show Le Pen would lose the final vote, whoever she faces.

French voters are looking for a leader who can turn their country around after years of sub-par growth and a wave of attacks by Islamist terrorists fueled a backlash against the political establishment. Socialist President Francois Hollande opted not to seek a second term as his approval rating plumbed record lows, his party's candidate Benoit Hamon has slipped to a distant fifth and Fillon, from the other traditional party, is running as a French-style Thatcherite who will shake up the economy.

After spiking earlier in the month as Melenchon's prospects rose, French bond yields have stabilized this week. The spread on French 10-year debt over German bunds narrowed by 2 basis points on Thursday to 72 basis points.

At a rally in the southern port-city of Marseille on Wednesday evening, the National Front's Le Pen called for a national and democratic "insurrection" against the establishment and mocked Macron, saying he "feels faint" whenever he has to make a decision. Banking on her most popular issues, Le Pen has toughened her anti-immigration and security stance.

"On the fight against Islamism as on everything else, Macron is vague," Fillon told Thursday's edition of Le Figaro newspaper. "You can feel there is no determination in him to fight efficiently against this danger, which he hasn't even diagnosed."

Security Threat

As the first round campaign draws to a close, security details protecting the candidates have been bolstered after intelligence services detected an imminent threat. Authorities arrested two men in the southern city of Marseille for planning an attack during the presidential race, Interior Minister Matthias Fekl said on Tuesday.

"Emmanuel Macron gives the impression in what he says that he doesn't defend national identity, the historic narrative, the cultural roots," said Fillon, who has been dogged by a scandal over alleged embezzlement. "As if all this was old-fashioned."

Fillon, who breakfasted with former President Nicolas Sarkozy in a would-be symbol of center-right unity, may be growing less optimistic. He canceled the election-night party he had planned for Sunday at a big congress hall venue in Paris, opting for his campaign headquarters instead, his team said.

Macron himself, who held a rally in Nantes with Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian at his side, will see several former center-right ministers endorse him in an open letter to be published in the press on Friday, newspaper Le Parisien reported. Macron's supporters have grown more certain to vote in the final weeks of the campaign, polls show, after earlier including more waverers than any of his rivals.

'Vile and Unworthy'

Running in his first ever campaign, Macron is trying to persuade voters he can keep the country safe after his rivals said he was too inexperienced. He made a point of getting his audience to applaud police officers of the anti-terrorism unit deployed at his rally on Wednesday night.

"I want to tell you how much I see the fight against terrorism as important," Macron said. "The mission of a head of state is to guarantee your security, and I am ready for that key mission."

He attacked Le Pen for her remark that if she had been in the presidential Elysee Palace, there would have been no terrorist attacks in recent years. "Vile and unworthy statements," Macron countered. "Madame Le Pen isn't worthy of leading our Republic."

© Copyright 2021 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.


Newsfront
Emmanuel Macron's rivals are training their fire on the centrist newcomer as opinion polls signal his narrow lead may be firming three days before the first round of France's presidential election. Nationalist Marine Le Pen and Republican Francois Fillon both attacked the...
France, Presidential Election
692
2017-27-20
Thursday, 20 April 2017 07:27 AM
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