Macron attacked Le Pen ‘racism’ as the far-right candidate reached an all-time high in polls

PARIS (Reuters) – French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday accused far-right rival Marine Le Pen of lying to voters about her “racist” platform as he sought to rally support two days before the first round of the presidential election.

The race appears to be down to the finalists for the 2017 election, and while Macron has remained far from any direct discussion so far, the two have increasingly targeted each other from afar. And they didn’t lose their words on Friday.

“There was a clear strategy (from Le Pen’s camp) to hide the brutality of its programme,” Macron said in an interview with Le Parisien published on Friday.

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“Its basics have not changed: it is a racist program that aims to divide society and it is very brutal.”

Le Pen told France Info television she was shocked by the accusation she rejected, describing the president as “feverish” and “aggressive”.

She said her programme, which includes adding the principle of “national priority” to the French constitution, will not discriminate against people on the basis of their origin – as long as they hold a French passport.

Pushing force

Macron is leading in the polls, which still sees him as the likely winner, but his re-election is no longer a foregone conclusion. Le Pen’s strong comeback in the polls put her victory within the margin of error in some polls.

Thursday’s poll showed the biggest ever gap in support between the two rivals, with Marine Le Pen seeing her win with 49% of the vote in a possible run-off against the president, her best poll result ever.

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It helped rival far-right candidate Eric Zeymore’s outspoken, extremist views appear more prevalent, and several left-leaning voters told pollsters that, unlike in 2017, they would not vote in the second round to keep Le Pen out of power.

“They won’t necessarily vote for Marine Le Pen, but they don’t want to vote for Emmanuel Macron,” said Jean-David Levy, deputy director of polling institute Harris Interactive.

Marine Le Pen has never been able to win the presidential election.

According to opinion polls, about a third of voters have not made up their minds yet, which analysts say often favor candidates with realistic chances of entering the second round as undecided voters tend to have what the French call a “helpful vote,” which means voting strategically.

Unlike Macron and Le Pen, this trend is set in favor of the far-left veteran Jean-Luc Mélenchon who – also on an upward trend – ranks third with about 17% of the projected vote.

The left-wing figure Christian Taubira, a former minister who withdrew from the race after failing in her attempt to rally the left behind her, backed Melenchon, saying he is now the left’s best hope.

Macron expressed his regret on Friday for entering the race late, saying he had no choice because of the war in Ukraine.

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On his last day before the first vote, Macron chose to focus on younger voters defending Paris and an evening interview with a social media news outlet.

said Harris Interactive CEO Jean-David Levy.

Take a look at the French elections:

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Additional reporting by Dominic Vidalon and Paris Newsro, writing by Ingrid Melander and Tassilo Hamill, editing by Simon Cameron Moore, Emilia Sithole Mataris and Nick McPhee

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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