Macron faces an uphill battle as France votes by Reuters on Sunday

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©Reuters. FILE PHOTO: French President Emmanuel Macron, candidate for his re-election in the 2022 French presidential election, speaks to supporters during a campaign tour in Spezet, France, April 5, 2022. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe/File Photo

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By Ingrid Melander

PARIS (Reuters) – France votes in the first round of a presidential election on Sunday, with far-right candidate Marine Le Pen posing an unexpected threat to President Emmanuel Macron’s re-election hopes.

Up until a few weeks ago, opinion polls pointed to an easy win for pro-European centrist Macron, bolstered by active diplomacy over Ukraine, a strong economic recovery and the weakness of a fragmented opposition.

But his late entry into the campaign, with just one big rally that even his supporters found underwhelming, and his focus on an unpopular plan to raise the retirement age have hurt the president’s ratings, along with a spike in inflation.

In contrast, the anti-immigrant, Eurosceptic far-right Le Pen has toured France confidently, everyone smiling, her supporters chanting ‘We will win! We will win!”. She has been bolstered by a months-long focus on the cost of living and a major drop in support for her far-right rival Eric Zemmour.

Certainly opinion polls still put Macron in the first round and in a runoff against Le Pen on April 24, but several polls now say that’s within error.

Voting starts at 08:00 (06:00 GMT) and ends at 18:00 GMT. At this point, the first exit polls will be published. Such surveys are usually very reliable in France.

“We are ready, and the French are with us,” Le Pen told cheering supporters at a rally on Thursday, urging them to cast a vote for them to “deliver the just punishment that those who governed us so badly.” have, deserve”.

Macron, 44 and in office since 2017, has spent the final days of the campaign making it clear that Le Pen’s program has not changed despite efforts to tone down her image and that of her National Rally party.

“Their principles have not changed: it is a racist program aimed at dividing society and it is very brutal,” he told Le Parisien newspaper.

Le Pen has dismissed accusations of racism and says her policies would benefit all French people, regardless of their origin.

OUTFLOW RISKS FOR MACRON

Assuming Macron and Le Pen get into the runoff, the president faces a problem: Many left-wing voters have told pollsters that, unlike in 2017, they would not vote for Macron in the runoff just to get Le Pen out keep running energy.

Macron must convince her to change her mind and vote for him in the second round.

Sunday’s vote will show who the unusually high number of late-breaking voters will vote for and whether Le Pen, 53, can beat poll forecasts and win in the first round.

“Marine Le Pen has never come so close to winning a presidential election,” said Jean-Daniel Levy of Harris Interactive pollsters of Le Pen’s third appearance at the Elysee.

The supporters of Jean-Luc Melenchon, the third-biggest left-wing candidate according to opinion polls, are hoping for another surprise and have called on left-wing voters of all stripes to switch to their candidate and send him to the runoff.

Macron and Le Pen agree that the outcome is completely open.

“Anything is possible,” Le Pen told his supporters on Thursday, while earlier in the week Macron warned his supporters not to neglect a Le Pen victory.

“Look at what happened with Brexit and so many other elections: what seemed unlikely actually happened,” he said.

https://www.investing.com/news/economy/macron-faces-a-tough-fight-as-france-votes-on-sunday-2801142 Macron faces an uphill battle as France votes by Reuters on Sunday

Chris Barrese

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