Macron denies being complacent after first-round victory

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy adds to the line forming behind presidential hopeful Emmanuel Macron, urging voters to keep far-right candidate Marine Le Pen out. But next week won't be smooth sailing for Macron.
French presidential election candidate Emmanuel Macron (centre) arrives to a meeting with the representatives of the Whirlpool inter-union, at the Chamber of commerce in Amiens, northern France, on April 26, 2017.
French presidential election candidate Emmanuel Macron (centre) arrives to a meeting with the representatives of the Whirlpool inter-union, at the Chamber of commerce in Amiens, northern France, on April 26, 2017. PHOTO: EPA

PARIS • French presidential front runner Emmanuel Macron rejected accusations that he was resting on his laurels after winning the first round of the election, insisting "nothing's won yet".

The 39-year-old centrist said on Tuesday that his victory in Sunday's first round of voting was proof that pollsters - who had long placed him second to the far-right's Marine Le Pen in the opening round - "get it wrong".

Earlier, President Francois Hollande appeared to admonish his former economy minister for not taking the fight to Ms Le Pen over the past two days. "We need to be extremely serious and mobilised, and not to think it's a done deal, because a vote is earned, it's fought for," said Mr Hollande.

After winning the contest with 24.1 per cent to Ms Le Pen's 21.3 per cent, Mr Macron gave a victory speech, then celebrated at a Paris bistro, drawing fire from critics.

"He was smug. He wrongly thought that it was a done deal. It's not a done deal," Socialist Party boss Jean-Christophe Cambadelis told French radio.

Ms Le Pen said: "All French people saw that he had the feeling he'd already won. It's not very respectful of democracy, of the voters."

Mr Macron defended the bistro gathering in a TV interview, saying his guests were mostly campaigners on a night out after a year of tireless work, adding: "I have no regrets. I take full responsibility."

 

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Ms Le Pen, 48, was first out of the blocks after the first round, visiting a food market outside Paris and giving a TV interview in which she accused the pro-European Union Mr Macron of representing "runaway globalisation" and lacking love for his country. She took aim at what she called his desire for "total deregulation, total opening up, total free trade".

In contrast, her rival has huddled in strategy meetings over June's elections that will determine the shape of any future Macron government.

Ms Le Pen on Tuesday gained an indirect boost from conservative activist group Manif pour Tous, or Protest for Everyone, that in 2013 staged rallies against same-sex marriage, a cornerstone law Mr Hollande pushed through. The group's leader Ludovine de la Rochere urged supporters to oppose Mr Macron, an "openly anti-family candidate".

But the rivals attended a ceremony honouring a 37-year-old policeman killed on the Champs Elysees last week, joining hundreds of mourners as Mr Xavier Jugele's gay partner delivered a moving eulogy.

Mr Macron and Ms Le Pen differ starkly over how to protect France, still reeling from a string of militant attacks since 2015 that has claimed more than 230 lives. Ms Le Pen has called for France to take back control of its borders and deport all foreigners on a terror watchlist.

Mr Macron has urged voters not to "give in to fear", and vowed to step up security cooperation with EU partners.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 27, 2017, with the headline 'Macron denies being complacent after first-round victory'. Print Edition | Subscribe