Macron and Le Pen trade insults ahead of French elections
French President Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen, the far-right leader who is challenging him for the presidency, exchanged insults and accusations on the final day of an increasingly bitter election campaign ahead of the first round of voting in Sunday.
While the latest polls give Macron a narrow lead if he faces him in the second round on April 24, the centrist president has accused Le Pen of lying about the feasibility of his plans for the economy and adopting a “manifesto racist” that would divide France and eventually take the country out of the EU.
Le Pen countered that a “very aggressive” Macron was making “extremely outrageous” comments and showing signs of “febrility” over his challenge to his re-election bid. She also denied that her program was racist and defended her promise to favor French nationals over foreigners.
“I think Marine Le Pen has a false social program because it is not funded,” Macron said in an interview with Le Parisien readers published by the newspaper on Friday.
“When she says ‘I’m going to increase the pensions, relax’, that’s not true. She lies to people because she won’t. . . His program will create massive unemployment because it will trigger the flight of international investors and it does not make budgetary sense, it will not work for long.
Le Pen – who lost to Macron in the second round of the last presidential election in 2017 – has mounted what commentators call a highly effective campaign in recent months by criss-crossing France visiting small towns and highlighting the problem of rising prices for rather than focusing on the anti-immigration policies for which it is best known.
She has promised to eliminate value added tax on a basket of ‘essentials’ food and household goods, and says she will incentivize companies to raise workers’ wages by up to 10%.
Other measures in Le Pen’s program include the abolition of income tax for everyone under 30, the reduction of VAT on energy and the creation of a French sovereign wealth fund to promote an economy based on on what she calls “localism” as opposed to the “globalism” embraced by Macron.
Webinar for FT subscribers
Join FT correspondents and guests for a Q&A on Monday 11 April at 5.00pm UK time on the result of the first round of voting in the French presidential election. Register for your free subscription ticket
It would also slightly reform France’s costly pension system but would not raise the retirement age to 65, as Macron has promised.
At her final campaign rally in the far-right southern stronghold of Perpignan on Thursday night, she said if elected she would adopt a new economic model based on “small and medium-sized businesses, localism , economic patriotism and independence – independence in energy, industry, science, medicine, agriculture and food”.
Five more years of Macron, Le Pen said, would lead to the dismantling of the nation and social desolation. “I do not hesitate to say it: as head of state, Mr. Macron has failed,” she added. Her supporters loudly booed the president whenever she mentioned him.
Macron’s polls were boosted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February because he was seen as a reliable leader in times of crisis, but the advantage faded as the war wore on. dragged on and the price of fuel and other goods rose sharply.
International diplomacy to help Ukraine and force a Russian withdrawal has also left the president little time to campaign at home, and he admitted on Friday that he entered the race “even later than I would have wished” because of the pandemic and the war.
A survey published Friday by OpinionWay-Kéa Partners showed Macron leading the first round with 26% of voting intentions, against 22% for Le Pen and 17% for the far-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon. In a second-round match between Macron and Le Pen, the poll showed him winning by 54-46, up from 66-34 in 2017.