French election: Macron in pole position, Le Pen racing hard

Apr 22, 2022, 12:02 PM | Updated: Apr 23, 2022, 12:54 pm
A voting booths at a polling station is being set up in Montreuil, east of Paris, Saturday, April 2...

A voting booths at a polling station is being set up in Montreuil, east of Paris, Saturday, April 23, 2022. French President Emmanuel Macron is facing off against far-right challenger Marine Le Pen in France's April 24 presidential runoff. (AP Photo/Lewis Joly)

(AP Photo/Lewis Joly)

PARIS (AP) — French President Emmanuel Macron is in the pole position to win reelection Sunday in the country’s presidential runoff, yet his lead over far-right rival Marine Le Pen depends on one major uncertainty: voters who could decide to stay home.

A Macron victory in this vote — which could have far-reaching repercussions for Europe’s future direction and Western efforts to stop the war in Ukraine — would make him the first French president in 20 years to win a second term.

All opinion polls in recent days converge toward a win for the 44-year-old pro-European centrist — yet the margin over his nationalist rival varies broadly, from 6 to 15 percentage points, depending on the poll. Polls also forecast a possibly record-high number of people who will either cast a blank vote or not vote at all.

Overseas French territories allowed voters to start casting ballots Saturday in polling stations that ranged from near the Caribbean shore in the Antilles to the savannahs of French Guiana on the South American coast.

Back on the French mainland, workers assembled a stage Saturday beneath the Eiffel Tower where Macron is expected to make his post-election speech, win or lose.

France’s April 10 first-round vote eliminated 10 other presidential candidates, and who becomes the country’s next leader — Macron or Le Pen — will largely depend on what supporters of those losing candidates do on Sunday.

The question is a hard one, especially for leftist voters who dislike Macron but don’t want to see Le Pen in power either. Macron issued multiple appeals to leftist voters in recent days in hopes of securing their support.

“Think about what British citizens were saying a few hours before Brexit or (people) in the United States before Trump’s election happened: ‘I’m not going, what’s the point?’ I can tell you that they regretted it the next day,” Macron warned this week on France 5 television.

“So if you want to avoid the unthinkable … choose for yourself!” he urged hesitant French voters.

The two rivals were combative in the final days before Sunday’s election, clashing Wednesday in a one-on-one televised debate. No campaigning is allowed through the weekend, and polling is banned.

Macron argued that the loan Le Pen’s far-right party received in 2014 from a Czech-Russian bank made her unsuitable to deal with Moscow amid its invasion of Ukraine. He also said her plans to ban Muslim women in France from wearing headscarves in public would trigger “civil war” in the country that has the largest Muslim population in Western Europe.

“When someone explains to you that Islam equals Islamism equals terrorism equals a problem, that is clearly called the far-right,” Macron declared Friday on France Inter radio.

In his victory speech in 2017, Macron had promised to “do everything” during his five-year term so that the French “have no longer any reason to vote for the extremes.”

Five years later, that challenge has not been met. Le Pen has consolidated her place on France’s political scene after rebranding herself as less extreme.

Le Pen’s campaign this time has sought to appeal to voters struggling with surging food and energy prices amid the fallout of Russia’s war in Ukraine. The 53-year-old candidate said bringing down the cost of living would be a top priority if she was elected as France’s first woman president.

She criticized Macron’s “calamitous” presidency in her last rally in the northern town of Arras.

“I’m not even mentioning immigration or security for which, I believe, every French person can only note the failure of the Macron’s policies … his economic record is also catastrophic,” she declared.

Political analyst Marc Lazar, head of the History Center at Sciences Po, said even if Macron is reelected, “there is a big problem,” he added. “A great number of the people who are going to vote for Macron, they are not voting for this program, but because they reject Marine Le Pen.”

He said that means Macron will face a “big level of mistrust” in the country.

Macron has vowed to change the French economy to make it more independent while still protecting social benefits. He said he will also keep pushing for a more powerful Europe.

His first term was rocked by the yellow vest protests against social injustice, the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine. It notably forced Macron to delay a key pension reform, which he said he would relaunch soon after reelection, to gradually raise France’s minimum retirement age from 62 to 65. He says that’s the only way to keep benefits flowing to retirees.

The French presidential election is also being closely watched abroad.

In several European newspapers on Thursday, the center-left leaders of Germany, Spain and Portugal urged French voters to choose him over his nationalist rival. They raised a warning about “populists and the extreme right” who hold Putin “as an ideological and political model, replicating his chauvinist ideas.”

A Le Pen victory would be a “traumatic moment, not only for France, but for European Union and for international relationships, especially with the USA,” Lazar said, noting that Le Pen “wants a distant relationship between France and the USA.”

In any case, Sunday’s winner will soon face another obstacle in governing France: A legislative election in June will decide who controls a majority of seats in France’s National Assembly.

Already, the battles promise to be hard-fought.

___

AP Journalists Catherine Gaschka and Jeffrey Schaeffer contributed to that story.

___

Follow AP’s coverage of the French election at https://apnews.com/hub/french-election-2022

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Associated Press

Moose back on the loose after rescuers free it from fence

BARKHAMSTED, Conn. (AP) — A moose is back on the loose in Connecticut after some quick-acting rescuers helped to free it from a fence. The Connecticut State Environmental Police received a call at around midnight about a moose stuck in Barkhamsted, northwest of Hartford. Local fire department personnel and state police responded early Saturday to […]
15 hours ago
Associated Press

Migrant-death suspect ran detention center accused of abuse

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — One of two Texas brothers who authorities say opened fire on a group of migrants getting water near the U.S.-Mexico border, killing one and injuring another, was warden at a detention facility with a history of abuse allegations. The shooting happened Tuesday in rural Hudspeth County about 90 miles (145 kilometers) […]
15 hours ago
FILE - People visit a makeshift memorial honoring the victims of the Oct. 1, 2017, mass shooting in...
Associated Press

Vegas survivors signal hope even as mass shootings persist

LAS VEGAS (AP) — It’s been five years since carnage and death sent his family running into the night, leaving them separated and terrified as a gunman rained bullets into an outdoor country music festival crowd on the Las Vegas Strip. The memories don’t fade, they sharpen, William “Bill” Henning said as he prepared for […]
15 hours ago
Associated Press

Man shot several times at California youth football game

ONTARIO, Calif. (AP) — A man was shot several times on the field at a youth football game Saturday morning in Southern California, police said. Ontario police said the man was targeted and shot multiple times by suspects who fled. No one else was injured at the game at Colony High School, and there was […]
15 hours ago
Associated Press

UN says detained Iranian-American was allowed to leave Iran

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — An 85-year-old Iranian-American who formerly worked for the U.N. children’s agency and was detained in Iran in 2016 has been permitted to leave the country for medical treatment abroad, the United Nations said Saturday. U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric announced the departure of Baquer Namazi and said Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was grateful […]
15 hours ago
CORRECT NAME OF CYPRUS' PRESIDENT - Cyprus' President Nicos Anastasiades talks to the media, next t...
Associated Press

Minister: Greece can defend islands despite Turkey’s threats

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — Greece has the right to take “all defensive measures” to protect its easternmost islands amid threats by neighboring Turkey that dispute Greek sovereignty rights and raise the specter of war, the Greek defense minister said Saturday. Speaking after Cyprus’ independence day military parade, Minister Nikolaos Panagiotopoulos said Turkey’s “revisionist and destabilizing […]
15 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.
...

Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!
...

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]
French election: Macron in pole position, Le Pen racing hard