Macron extends lead over Le Pen

Greenpeace activists unfurling a banner on the Eiffel Tower in Paris yesterday, in a call to French citizens to vote against National Front candidate Marine Le Pen.
Greenpeace activists unfurling a banner on the Eiffel Tower in Paris yesterday, in a call to French citizens to vote against National Front candidate Marine Le Pen.PHOTO: REUTERS

Polls show centrist candidate on track to win in French election

PARIS • Centrist French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron extended his lead in the polls over his far-right rival Marine Le Pen yesterday, the final day of a tumultuous election campaign that has turned the country's politics upside down.

The election is seen as the most important in France for decades with two diametrically opposed views of Europe and France's place in the world at stake.

The National Front's Ms Le Pen, 48, would close borders and quit the euro currency, while independent Mr Macron, 39, who has never held elected office, wants closer European cooperation and an open economy.

The candidates of France's two mainstream parties were both eliminated in the first round on April 23.

Four new polls showed Mr Macron on track to win 62 per cent of the votes in the second round compared with 38 per cent for Ms Le Pen, his best score in a voting survey by a major polling organisation since nine other candidates were eliminated in the first round. A fifth poll showed him on 61.5 per cent.

Pollsters said Mr Macron had been boosted by his performance in a rancorous final televised debate between the two contenders on Wednesday, which the centrist was judged by French viewers to have won, according to two surveys.

Mr Macron's strong showing in the debate, as well as another poll this week showing his En Marche! (Onwards!) movement likely to emerge as the biggest party in June legislative elections, has lifted the mood among investors worried about the upheaval a Le Pen victory could cause.

The gap between French and German 10-year government borrowing costs hit a new six-month low yesterday.

Ms Le Pen was booed by several dozen protesters, including some holding Macron posters, as she visited the cathedral in Reims, northern France, where French kings were crowned in the Middle Ages.

Paris' police chief called emergency talks on security before the election after Greenpeace activists scaled the Eiffel Tower yesterday and unfurled a political banner.

Separately, police arrested a man suspected of having radical Islamist beliefs near an airbase in Evreux, western France, during the night after spotting a suspicious vehicle, police and judicial sources said. Counter-terrorism prosecutors were investigating.

Security is a key election issue after attacks by militant Islamists killed more than 230 people in the past two years.

Mr Macron was already looking ahead to being in power, telling RTL radio he had decided who would be his prime minister if he wins. He did not reveal a name, saying he would announce the make-up of his government only after he took office.

The anti-immigration, anti-European Union Ms Le Pen was not giving up. "My goal is to win this presidential election," she said on RTL radio. "I think we can win."

Ms Le Pen was criticised by some pundits for her aggressive approach to Wednesday's presidential debate, seeing this as a setback to her attempts to rid the party of the fringe, extremist image it acquired under the nearly 40-year leadership of her father, Jean-Marie.

A poll yesterday by Odoxa said a quarter of the French electorate was likely to abstain in tomorrow's vote, many of them left-wing voters disappointed after their candidates missed reaching the run-off.

REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 06, 2017, with the headline 'Macron extends lead over Le Pen'. Print Edition | Subscribe