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ELECTION

Macron tells French voters democracy is under threat from ‘anti-France’ Le Pen

As the increasingly bitter race to the Elysée enters its final days presidential frontrunner Emmanuel Macron has presented himself as the defender of "free democracy" against his rival Marine Le Pen and her "anti-France" National Front party.

Macron tells French voters democracy is under threat from 'anti-France' Le Pen
Photo: AFP

The threat the far right Marine Le Pen and her National Front party could take power in France prompted Emmanuel Macron into making one of his most sustained attacks yet on his rival at a packed rally in Paris on Monday.

Macron told 12,000 crammed into a hall at the Paris Event Centre in the north eastern edge of the city that Le Pen's National Front party was “anti-France” and that it was the party of “hate” and “violence” that sought to turn the French against each other and provoke “civil war”.

Macron sought to mobilise the so-called “republican front” – the traditional left and right against the far right – that has been fraying in recent days by positioning himself as the defender of France's democracy.

Voters will go to the polls on Sunday May 7th to vote on whether he or Le Pen should be the next president of France.

“May 7th is not just about defending a political project, it is about defending free democracy,” he told around 7,000 packed into the Paris Event Centre and thousands more in an adjoining hall, who watched on a big screen.

The 39-year-old leader of the En Marche movement told the crowd that a Le Pen victory would mean the exit of France “from Europe, from the world, from history.”

With the crowd jeering every mention of Le Pen's name Macron told them: “Don't whistle her, defeat her.” 

“Make Le Pen lose on Sunday,” he told them.

He mocked Le Pen's seemingly ever changing plan to leave the euro and bring back the franc.

Under Marine Le Pen “we'd have the franc in the morning and then the euro in the afternoon,” said Macron. “That's before we've even started talking of Monopoly money.”

He laid out what a Le Pen victory would mean: “The end of the euro, “devaluation of the currency”, “abandonment of our alliances”, “impoverishment of employees”, “economic war and war”.

Macron warned Sunday's election was not just about France's future for the next five years but for “decades to come.”

His final plea to the ecstatic crowd was “On May 7th be proud to be French, be proud to be European.”

Macron has made several symbolic stops on his campaign trail in recent weeks as if to warn voters of the dangers of nationalism and the extreme right.

He has visited a Holocaust memorial, a village where the French were massacred by the Nazis and on Monday he attended a ceremony to remember Brahim Bouarram, a young Moroccan man who drowned after he was thrown into the Seine by National Front supporters on 1 May 1995.

While he blasted Le Pen and her programme at every opportunity he said he would “never judge” those who vote for the National Front who were “angry and worried”.

“We need to build a republic for the winners and the losers,” he said.

His supporters punctured his speech with chants of “Macron President”, “We are going to win” and after every mention of the National Front “We don't want them!”.

Many of those supporters who had filed into the hall to hear Macron speak talked of the danger of the National Front and how important it was for France that Le Pen is beaten on Sunday.

Laurent Segnis, 34, from Guadaloupe told The Local: “The rise of Le Pen is a shock for France, we now have a responsibility to show her that we don't agree with her vision of the country. Hers is not the France that we want.

“The danger of the National Front is that they will turn the French against themselves,” he added. “Emmanuel Macron represents the French Republic in all its diversity.”

Retiree Jean-Jacques Potiè, from the Val de Marne department, said: “I have three children and Emmanuel Macron is more positive and he brings hope, whereas Le Pen brings hatred and dishonesty. I don't want that for my children.

He, like many supporters were still worried that Le Pen could defy the odds and the polls (the latest poll sees her gaining 41 percent of the vote compared to Emmanuel Macron's 59 percent.)

“I am not totally confident. The level of abstention will be important. There are people who are over confident,” he added.

Jean-Charles Molkou from the Paris region slammed those who are ready to abstain or post a blank vote because of their dislike of both Macron and Le Pen.

“Abstaining is just the same as a vote for the National Front. It's irresponsible,” he said.

But others spoke of the task Macron faces if he is elected.

“There is a real anger in France. Macron needs to respond to all the difficult complaints in the country but with a common objective,” said 32-year-old IT worker Zoser Bizyki, who lives near Paris.

Earlier in the day it was Le Pen who fired the first barbs at her rival at a meeting to the north of Paris.

Le Pen told thousands of her supporters at a rally Monday to reject “the world of finance, of arrogance, of money as king” that she said Macron embodied.

The first key speaker was Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, a eurosceptic from outside the FN who Le Pen has said will be her prime minister if she wins on Sunday.
 
She is hoping to capture some of the 1.7 million votes he won in the first round, although his support for Le Pen has divided his own party.
 
Le Pen has also fought hard to win over the voters from hard left Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who, like Le Pen, campaigned on an anti-globalization anti-free market platform promising to defend workers.
 
While Mélenchon has warned supporters not to give one vote to Le Pen, he has refused to back Macron.
 
Whatever happens on Sunday, history will be made in France.
 
The country will either have its youngest ever president or its first female head of state.

ELECTION

Le Pen narrowly tops European election polls in France in blow for Macron

The far-right National Rally party led by Marine Le Pen finished top in European elections in France on Sunday, dealing a blow to pro-European President Emmanuel Macron.

Le Pen narrowly tops European election polls in France in blow for Macron
Marine Le Pen and Jordan Bardella. Photo: AFP

Results released on Monday morning by the Ministry of the Interior, which have yet to be formally verified and declared by the National Voting Commission, showed that the far right Rassemblement National (RN) party topped the polls with 23.3 percent of the vote, beating French president Emmanuel Macron's La Republique En Marche.

They were closely followed by Macron's party, which polled 22.4 percent.

Emmanuel and Brigitte Macron at a polling station in Le Touquet earlier on Sunday. Photo: AFP

The allocation of seats in the European Parliament has been complicated for France by the UK's delayed departure from the EU.

The Parliament had already decided that after Brexit, some of the seats that had been occupied by British MEPs would be reallocated to other countries, with France set to gain an extra five seats

However, last minute delays to Brexit meant that the UK had to take part in the elections, with the result that France will not gain its extra seats until Britain leaves the EU.

On last night's polling results, the RN will get 22 seats in the European parliament immediately, and an extra seat once Britain leaves.

Macron's LREM will get 21 seats now and 23 after the UK leaves.

The green party lead by Yannick Jadot was placed third with 13.4 percent of the vote, gaining 12 seats now and 13 after Brexit. 

The two parties that between them had dominated French politics for decades until the rise of Macron both polled in single figures. Nicolas Sarkozy's old party Les Republicains polled 8.4 percent, while the Socialist party of Francois Hollande was on 6.31 percent, winning them eight and six seats respectively.

Meanwhile the 'yellow vest' candidates scored just 0.54 percent of the vote, below the Animalist party which polled 2.17 percent.

Nathalie Loiseau with LREM party workers. Photo: AFP

Although a total of 34 parties fielded candidates in the European elections in France, the election had largely been framed as a contest between Macron and Le Pen.

Macron's La Republique En Marche party, its list headed by former Europe Minister Nathalie Loiseau, was contesting its first European elections.

Marine Le Pen, on the other hand, was hoping to replicate her 2014 European election victory with her Rassemblement National party, its list headed by a political novice, the 23-year-old Jordan Bardella. Bardella called the results a “failure” for the LREM ruling party and sought to portray Macron's defeat as a rejection by voters of his pro-business agenda in France and pro-EU vision.

Macron had made no secret of the significance he attached to the results, telling regional French newspapers last week that the EU elections were the most important for four decades as the union faced an “existential threat”.

Jordan Bardella, head of the RN list. Photo: AFP

He has jumped into the campaign himself in recent weeks, appearing alone on an election poster in a move that analysts saw as exposing him personally if LREM underperformed.

The score of the National Rally is slightly below the level of 2014 when it won 24.9 percent, again finishing top.

Le Pen had placed herself towards the bottom of the RN list, so she will be returning to the European Parliament, where she served as an MEP from 2004 to 2017.

Turnout at the polls in France was the highest in recent years, with 50.12 percent of people voting, significantly up from 35.07 percent in 2014.

Veteran France reporter John Lichfield said: “After six months of 'yellow vest' rebellion, that Macron list has 22 percent is respectable. Much better than President Hollande did in 2014 (14.5 percent).

“But he made the election all about himself and lost. His hopes of emerging as de facto EU leader or enacting more French reforms are damaged.”

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