PARIS • With campaigning for France's presidential election in its final week, centrist Emmanuel Macron and his rival, far-right leader Marine Le Pen, have doubled down on their attacks against each other's economic blueprint for the country.
Mr Macron has ridiculed Ms Le Pen's plan to create a new national currency as "Monopoly money", while the National Front candidate continues to attack his past as a Rothschild banker.
Meanwhile, French labour unions found themselves in a bind before the vote in the second and final round of the presidential election this coming Sunday.
Although they have historically opposed Ms Le Pen's party and have urged members to vote against her, several major labour unions also fought the job market overhauls that Mr Macron defended as economy minister and that he wants to expand if elected.
That has left unions split between those who have explicitly endorsed Mr Macron, and those who have only called for votes against Ms Le Pen.
At a rally of his supporters in Paris on Monday, Mr Macron reiterated his economic agenda and renewed calls for a "strong Europe".
He said Ms Le Pen's initiative to pull France out of the euro and the European Union would impoverish the country and would be irreversible. But he said he would never "judge" a National Front voter, "because behind that vote there is always an anger, an outrage, a disappointment".
Earlier in the day, Ms Le Pen, 48, attacked Mr Macron, 39, for having worked as a banker and for Mr Francois Hollande, who became the least popular president in half a century in the face of record levels of joblessness, lagging economic growth and hundreds of deaths at the hands of terrorists.
"Don't extend this contemptible mandate, don't let them intimidate you," Ms Le Pen told supporters at a rally in north-east Paris. "On May 7, I ask you to block arrogance, finance and money as king."
In Paris on Monday, the unions that supported Mr Macron and opposed Ms Le Pen marched separately, in stark contrast to 2002, when the different labour unions united to oppose Ms Le Pen's father, Jean-Marie, after he made it to the second round of the presidential elections.
Mr Philippe Martinez, head of the General Confederation of Labour, one of France's biggest unions, told the Le Parisien daily on Sunday that while his and other unions agreed on opposing the National Front, "we are not in 2002 any more".
Poland protested yesterday after Mr Macron named its most powerful politician, Mr Jaroslaw Kaczynski, head of the governing Law and Justice Party (PiS), alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin as the leaders of "regimes" allied with Ms Le Pen.
"We all know who Le Pen's allies are: the regimes of (Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor) Orban, Kaczynski, Putin. These aren't regimes with an open and free democracy. Every day they break many democratic freedoms," Mr Macron said on Monday.
He also said on BFM TV that, if he was elected, he would push the EU to raise anti-dumping taxes as part of an initiative to soften the impact of globalisation. "I want a massive increase in anti-dumping taxes when we face attacks from outside (the EU)," Mr Macron said.
The latest polls suggest Mr Macron could beat Ms Le Pen with roughly 60 per cent of the vote in the second round.
NYTIMES, BLOOMBERG, REUTERS