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Macron to unveil his manifesto ahead of French elections

French President Emmanuel Macron, riding high in the polls ahead of elections next month, is to reveal his programme for a second term on Thursday in his first major campaign event.

Macron to unveil his manifesto ahead of French elections
Photo by Ludovic MARIN / POOL / AFP

The 44-year-old delayed declaring his intention to seek re-election to the last minute and is now under pressure to engage with voters and rivals ahead of polls on April 10th.

The centrist had focused in recent weeks on Western diplomatic outreach to stop the war in Ukraine, giving him a personal ratings boost at home where most voters approve of his efforts.

If he becomes the first French president to be re-elected in 20 years next month, the former investment banker is expected to focus on deepening his pro-business domestic reforms and accelerating his vision for a more powerful European Union.

But few specific details about his programme have been revealed so far.

Thursday’s event in Paris, which will include a lengthy press conference, is “an important exercise to show that he is addressing the questions and criticism of him, and that he’s therefore really entering the campaign”, a minister told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Rivals across the political spectrum, who have struggled to make an impact in recent weeks amid the focus on Russia’s invasion, had been calling on Macron to declare his candidacy since the turn of the year.

“The president wants to be re-elected without ever really having been a candidate, without a campaign, without a debate, without a competition between ideas,” the head of the Senate, Gerard Larcher, said on Tuesday.

“If there isn’t a campaign, then there will be questions about the legitimacy of the winner,” the opposition figure from the Republicans party told Le Figaro newspaper.

Republicans presidential candidate Valérie Pécresse has claimed that “when you run away from debating, it’s probably because you’re scared”.

Macron has brushed aside the criticism, but has also declined to take part in televised head-to-head debates ahead of the first round, like his predecessors as president.

“Election campaigns when a president is running for re-election are always a bit unusual, that’s normal,” Macron said on Tuesday as he visited a centre for Ukrainian refugees outside Paris.

The most recent voter surveys suggest that Macron has gained between 5.0 and 6.0 points over the last month and could be on course to win the first round of the election with a score of around 30 percent, which would be a higher margin of victory than in 2017.

Veteran far-right leader Marine Le Pen is running in second place, with a score of around 18 percent, a poll of polls by the Politico website suggests.

She is trailed by three candidates on around 11-12 percent: Pécresse, far-right former TV pundit Eric Zemmour and hard-left campaigner Jean-Luc Melenchon, who appears to be gaining momentum.

The top two candidates in the first round will progress to a run-off vote on April 24th, with surveys currently suggesting that Macron would triumph by a large margin irrespective of his rival.

Behind the scenes, the president is reported to be urging supporters to guard against premature optimism.

He remains a highly divisive figure, owing to his tax cuts for the wealthy, pro-business labour law reform and abrasive personality, which led to violent anti-government demonstrations in 2018 by so-called Yellow Vest protesters.

A survey by the Odexa polling group, published by Le Figaro on Wednesday, suggested one in four people might abstain in the first round, the second-highest rate since 1965.

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POLITICS

Prosecutors: No new rape inquiry for France’s disabilities minister

France's disabilities minister will not face a new inquiry "as things stand" over a rape allegation that surfaced just after his nomination by President Emmanuel Macron last week, prosecutors have said, citing the anonymity of the alleged victim.

Prosecutors: No new rape inquiry for France's disabilities minister

Damien Abad has faced growing pressure to resign after the news website Mediapart reported the assault claims by two women dating from over a decade ago, which he has denied.

One of the women, identified only by her first name, Margaux, filed a rape complaint in 2017 that was later dismissed by prosecutors.

The other woman, known only as Chloe, told Mediapart that in 2010 she had blacked out after accepting a glass of champagne from Abad at a bar in Paris, and woke up in her underwear in pain with him in a hotel room. She believes she may have been drugged.

She did not file an official complaint, but the Paris prosecutors’ office said it was looking into the case after being informed by the Observatory of Sexist and Sexual Violence in Politics, a group formed by members of France’s MeToo movement.

“As things stand, the Paris prosecutors’ office is not following up on the letter” from the observatory, it said, citing “the inability to identify the victim of the alleged acts and therefore the impossibility of proceeding to a hearing.”

In cases of sexual assault against adults, Paris prosecutors can open an inquiry only if an official complaint is made, meaning the victim must give their identity.

Abad has rejected the calls to resign in order to ensure the new government’s “exemplarity,” saying that he is innocent and that his own condition of arthrogryposis, which limits the movement of his joints, means sexual relations can occur only with the help of a partner.

The appointment of Abad as minister for solidarities and people with disabilities in a reshuffle last Friday was seen as a major coup for Macron, as the 42-year-old had defected from the right-wing opposition.

The new prime minister, Elisabeth Borne, said she was unaware of the allegations before Abad’s nomination, but insisted that “If there is new information, if a new complaint is filed, we will draw all the consequences.”

The claims could loom large over parliamentary elections next month, when Macron is hoping to secure a solid majority for his reformist agenda. Abad will be standing for re-election in the Ain department north of Lyon.

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