Here's what's happening in the French election campaigns

AFP - [email protected]
Here's what's happening in the French election campaigns

Eight days before the start of voting in France's presidential election, far-right candidate Le Pen tore into her top rival, centrist Emmanuel Macron while conservative Francois Fillon worked the Catholic vote.


Here's what happened in the campaign on Saturday:

Macron soft on Islamists: Le Pen

At a rally in the southern city of Perpignan, Le Pen said Macron, a champion of diversity, would hasten France's "multicultural drift" and allow Muslims to close themselves off from the rest of society.

"With Mr Macron, it would be Islamism on the move," Le Pen said, in a play on the name of his En Marche (On the Move) party.

Photo: AFP

She was referring to a controversy involving a Macron campaigner in a tough Paris suburb, who criticised the Charlie Hebdo newspaper targeted by jihadists in 2015 for publishing cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.

Le Pen also let fly at Republicans candidate Fillon accusing him of failing to stem the rise of ultra-conservative Islam in some neighbourhoods when he was prime minister between 2007 and 2012.

"Today we are paying the price of his total inaction", she accused.

Pilgrim's progress

Scandal-hit Fillon used the last weekend of campaigning before the April 23rd first round to mobilise Catholic voters at Easter.

Photo: AFP

In a speech in the central town of Puy-en-Velay, famous for its cathedral, he stressed the importance of patriotism - borrowing from the songbook of Le Pen who styles her National Front the "party of patriots".

"We no longer dare today say the words 'France', 'identity', 'nation', 'homeland', 'roots' or 'culture'. We're asked to be discreet. Well, no, let us together speak out.... Patriotism is not a dirty word," he said.

Hamon battles on

The struggling Socialist candidate, Benoit Hamon, who has haemorrhaged supporters to Communist-backed firebrand Jean-Luc Melenchon and Macron told Liberation daily he was still in the campaign to win.

"Let this much be clear, I'm in the campaign to the end to win over voters and avoid them being tempted to choose a 'good candidate' rather than a good president," he said.

Large numbers of voters on the left are considering voting for the candidate they believe is best placed to beat Le Pen rather than their preferred candidate.

Macron is expected to be the main beneficiary of tactical voting on both the left and right.


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