French election: Macron faces 12 contenders as race begins
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With the first round of the votes set to be cast next Sunday, Mr Macron is seeking to secure a second term in office as President of the Republic. However, recent polls have suggested that although the incumbent is still expected to win, rivals are slowly but surely creeping up on Mr Macron.
Addressing a huge 35,000 strong crowd in a stadium outside Paris, the President set about delivering a two-hour long speech highlighting his achievements and accomplishments during his first term in office.
Yet Mr Macron also warned voters to be mindful of the unexpected.
Speaking of the notion of a surprise result on polling day, he said: “Look at what happened with Brexit, and so many other elections: what looked improbable actually happened.
“The danger of extremism has reached new heights because, in recent months and years, hatred, and alternative truths have been normalised.
“We have got used to seeing on TV shows anti-Semitic and racist authors.”
Mr Macron’s first term has seen his popularity plunge with French voters, yet many analysts believe he will win as voters choose him as an alternative to more extreme leaning political candidates.
The latest poll by IFOP shows Mr Macron is widely expected to secure a ticket into the second round of the election.
He currently sits on 28 percent, a figure that has remained stagnant for a few days now.
The closest rival, Marine Le Pen is gaining popularity in the polls, with the likely second-round challenger seeing 21.5 percent of the votes.
In third place, left-wing Jean-Luc Melenchon has slipped down half a point to 15 percent, whilst hardliner Eric Zemmour sits in fourth on 11 percent.
Many predict Mr Macron will win a second-round run-off with Ms Le Pen by 45-55.
Mr Macron used his speech to warn centre-left voters not to abstain from voting, promising to deliver new jobs in an attempt to gain their support.
The President said: “Our lives, their lives, are worth more than profits.”
He also used the occasion to call on supporters to applaud the efforts of frontline staff including teachers and nurses for their tenacity during the height of the Covid pandemic.
On one of the most contentious policies, Mr Macron stated French workers would have to continue working for more years in order to pay for measures taken to bring France out of the slump caused by the pandemic.
He said: “I am not hiding the fact we will have to work more.
“Don’t believe those who say they will cut the retirement age to 60 or 62 and everything will be alright. That’s not true.”
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The target of the words aimed at Ms Le Pen and Mr Melenchon who have promised to cut the pension age to 60.
Yet in spite of the rock-star like setting in the stadium, some attendees did not feel the performance merited much credit.
Martin Rochepeau, a 22-year-old student who attended the event said afterwards: “It’s a speech that shows he wants to explain what he will do, but it lacked inspiration.”
Ms Le Pen has been described as a “Phoenix rising from the ashes” by some commentators.
MP Frédéric Descrozaille said Ms Len Pen has run “an absolutely impeccable campaign”.
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Ms Le Pen has promised to spend £57.3bn (€68bn) on measures such as income tax exemptions for the under-30s and cutting VAT on petrol to 5.5 percent from 20 per cent, saying these would be offset by savings, including removing benefits from non-French citizens.
Speaking of Mr Macron’s rally, Ms Le Pen said; “For the past five years, Emmanuel Macron has funded the removal of the wealth tax by taxing petrol and gas, fuel and electricity of all households.
“Elected president, I will give the French back their money so they can live from their work and pension.”
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