Toonto - About to enter the final week of campaigning, French Presidential candidates, Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron each find themselves facing last-minute challenges.
Toonto – About to enter the final week of campaigning, French Presidential candidates, Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron each find themselves facing last-minute challenges.
For Le Pen, it’s the looming spectre of xenophobia while Macron continues to struggle with his elitist image.
Despite stepping down as leader of the National Front (FN) party, ostensibly to focus on her campaign, their choice of a replacement didn’t help her shake claims of xenophobia. Jean-Francois Jalkh, named as the party’s interim leader, has already stepped down before even starting the job amid renewed controversy fueled by past comments he made questioning the Holocaust. He is vigorously denying any association with Holocaust deniers.
Critics had seen Le Pen’s move as a bid to court a broader range of voters ahead of the May 7th vote, by distancing herself from the National Front’s image of anti-semitic and racist associations.
For Macron’s campaign director, Richard Ferrand, it’s time for French voters to take a good, hard look at Le Pen and her party. “There comes a time when the women and men of France must open their eyes to where the National Front comes from,” he said.
At a press conference Saturday, Le Pen announced Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, who finished fourth in the election’s first round of voting, as her choice for Prime Minister should she be elected President. “We will form a government of national unity that brings together people chosen for their competence and their love of France,” the presidential hopeful said.
Though the alliance might prove successful in courting additional right-wing support for Le Pen, analysts are also predicting it could push leftist voters further into centrist Macron’s camp.
Campaigning in Poitiers on Saturday, Emmanuel Macron listened to farmers who complained about what they called unfair EU competition forcing low prices on their products. Once marginalized in France, the alt-right has seen a resurgence in France’s rural areas where farmers feel forgotten by the traditional politicians Macron represents.
In a radio interview, the En Marche! candidate also addressed ongoing complaints regarding poor internet and phone service in rural areas, promising to give providers 18 months to upgrade their fibre optics throughout the French countryside.
“I will give them 18 months to finish these deployment, be it fibre optic or 3G/4G. If at the end of these 18 months, they have not fulfilled their responsibility, the state will substitute itself in their place to do this, within the framework of the investment plan I’ve decided.”
Asked during the same interview who his choice for prime minister would be, Macron was noncommittal, saying only that he has “profiles, people in mind.”
As for endorsements, Macron isn’t exactly feeling the political love. While far-left candidate, Jean-Luc Melenchon, openly declared he will not be supporting Le Pen, he stopped short of openly endorsing Macron. Polls are still showing Macron in the lead heading into the final week of campaigning but also acknowledge that Le Pen has gained some modest ground, making Macron’s lead far from a comfortable one.