Le Pen urges France to defeat ‘elitist bloc’ in Macron showdown

A combination picture shows portraits of Marine Le Pen and French President Emmanuel Macron, the two candidates running for the second round in the 2022 French presidential election. — Reuters pic
A combination picture shows portraits of Marine Le Pen and French President Emmanuel Macron, the two candidates running for the second round in the 2022 French presidential election. — Reuters pic

AVIGNON, April 15 — French far-right leader Marine Le Pen on Thursday urged France to defeat elitism and oligarchy in elections this month, as she seeks to reach out to left-wing voters to beat President Emmanuel Macron.

Centrist Macron and Le Pen went through to the April 24 run-off vote after finishing first and second in the April 10 first round. 

But analysts say that the choice of voters who backed the third-placed candidate, the hard-left Jean-Luc Melenchon, will be crucial in determining the outcome of the vote.

In a major rally in the southern city of Avignon, Le Pen, wearing a red jacket, said she was addressing “patriots of the right, patriots of the left.”

“Victory has never been so near,” she told some 4,000 supporters.

Appearing to address Melenchon voters, she said: “Come out and vote. We are speaking to all the French. We hold out a firm hand but one of friendship and respect.”

‘Cohesion of France’

Her comments came after Macron received a boost when his predecessor as president Francois Hollande, a Socialist, urged the French to back the incumbent in round two as Le Pen “was putting our principles into doubt”.

Hollande told TF1 television he was calling on France to vote for Macron “for the sake of the cohesion of France” and its “European future”.

Macron had earlier this week also won the backing of right-wing former president Nicolas Sarkozy.

Le Pen, who has sought to moderate her image in order to give her the best launch pad yet for the Elysee, said that “we are almost at the end of the road, a long path that has often been steep and hit by gusts”.

Critics allege that the changes have only been in style, with hardline signature policies in place including making it illegal for women to wear the Muslim headscarf in public.

But she urged France to block a new five-year term for Macron to halt “social desolation and national deconstruction” and put an end to “this caste which governs us with arrogance, these few who rule for the benefit of the few”.

“On April 24, the popular bloc will come face-to-face with the elitist bloc,” she said.

It will be a showdown between the “people and the oligarchy”, she added.

‘The last avatar’

She took aim at Macron, saying he was “not the man of a new era but the last avatar of a system that has run its course”.

“I think the moment has come to put an end to a system that has run out of breath.”

Le Pen’s choice of Avignon for her rally was symbolic as Melenchon had come out on top in the city in the first round of voting.

Macron, who is due to host a major rally Saturday in the southern city of Marseille, on Thursday visited the northern port city of Le Havre where Melenchon also led in the first round.

“I will try and convince all the voters,” he said, as he went on a walkabout in the city which is run by the heavyweight ex-prime minister Edouard Philippe.

The most recent polls have shown a tight contest between Macron and Le Pen on April 24, albeit with signs that the president may be slightly extending a lead.

An Opinonway poll Wednesday showed Macron on 53 per cent and Le Pen on 47 per cent.

But even such a margin is too close for comfort for supporters of Macron, who won over 66 per cent against Le Pen in their run-off encounter in 2017.

A pivotal moment in the final phase of the campaign will come on April 20 when the two meet for their only live debate of the whole campaign broadcast live on French television. — AFP