French election poll: Macron leads Le Pen by 61% to 39%
Centrist presses home campaign advantage, portrays National Front leader as extremist
Between them Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen attracted only 45 per cent of votes in the first round, which eliminated nine other candidates. Photograph: Getty Images
Centrist presidential frontrunner Emmanuel Macron and his far-right rival Marine Le Pen traded campaign blows across Paris on May Day, as France’s most crucial election in decades enters its final week.
Mr Macron sought for a third successive day to paint National Front (FN) leader Ms Le Pen as an extremist, while she portrayed him as a clone of unpopular outgoing Socialist President Francois Hollande, under whom he served as economy minister from 2014 to 2016.
The latest opinion poll showed Mr Macron leading Ms Le Pen by 61 per cent to 39 ahead of Sunday’s election, which offers France a choice between his vision of closer integration with a modernised European Union and her calls to cut immigration and take the country out of the euro.
“I will fight up until the very last second not only against her programme but also her idea of what constitutes democracy and the French Republic,” said Mr Macron, an independent backed by a new party, En Marche! (Onwards!), which he set up a year ago.
He was speaking after paying tribute to a young Moroccan man who drowned in the River Seine in Paris 22 years ago after being pushed into the water by skinheads on the fringes of a May Day rally by FN, then led by Ms Le Pen’s father Jean-Marie.
Campaigning in Villepinte, a suburb north of the capital, Marine Le Pen told a rally: “Emmanuel Macron is just Francois Hollande who wants to stay and who is hanging on to power like a barnacle.”
Since taking over the party, she has worked hard to cleanse it of xenophobic and anti-semitic associations and make it more appealing to a wider electorate. She said at the weekend she had no more contact with her father and was not responsible for his “unacceptable comments”.
Le Pen senior delivered his own traditional May Day speech at a statue of French mediaeval heroine Joan of Arc, just a few hundred metres from where Mr Macron commemorated the death of young Moroccan Brahim Bouarram.
“Emmanuel Macron is doing a tour of graveyards. It’s a bid sign for him,” he said.
The bitterly contested election has polarised France. It has exposed some of the same sense of anger with globalisation and political elites that brought Donald Trump to presidential power in the United States and caused Britons to vote for a divorce from the EU.
The vote in the world’s fifth largest economy, a key member of the Nato defence alliance, will be the first to elect a president who is from neither of the main political groupings: the candidates of the Socialists and conservative party The Republicans were knocked out in the first round on April 23rd.
Between them Ms Le Pen and Mr Macron attracted only 45 per cent of votes in that round, which eliminated nine other candidates.
The second round will take place in the middle of a weekend extended by a public holiday. That has fed speculation that a high abstention rate could favour Ms Le Pen, whose supporters typically tell pollsters they are staunchly committed to their candidate.