A week before France’s high-stakes presidential election, the four top candidates began a final push on Sunday (April 16, 2017) to woo undecided voters who will determine the outcome of the tight race between the hard left, centre, right and far right, AFP reported.
On April 23, the French go to the polls in the most unpredictable vote in the country’s post-war history to choose two candidates from a field of 11 who will go through to a run-off two weeks later.
With a duel between far-right leader Marine Le Pen and Communist-backed radical Jean-Luc Melenchon, both eurosceptics, among one of six possible outcomes the election is being closely watched in Brussels and around the world.
Opinion polls show one in three voters still undecided about who to back after a campaign characterised by scandals and upsets.
In an interview in Le Parisien newspaper on Sunday, 65-year-old Melenchon, who is threatening to quit the euro and massively increase public spending, vowed he would be a safe pair of hands on the eurozone’s second-largest economy.
“I am not from the far left,” the leader of the La France Insoumise (Unbowed France) movement said, insisting he was “ready to govern.”
Melenchon’s surge has shaken up the race, with many hesitating between voting with their hearts and a tactical vote for whichever candidate they see as best placed to keep Le Pen or Melenchon out of power.
Le Pen, whom polls show leading the first round with centrist Emmanuel Macron on around 22-24 percent each, returned to her party’s core themes of immigration and Islam on Saturday to try to mobilise her base.
The opinion polls had shown her virtually assured of a place in the May 7 runoff but Melenchon and the conservative Francois Fillon have narrowed the gap with her and Macron to about three points, blowing the race wide open.
In a speech in the southern city of Perpignan the 48-year-old National Front (FN) leader lashed out at Macron and Fillon, accusing them of being soft on radical Islam.
“With Mr Macron, it would be Islamism on the move,” Le Pen said, in a play on the name of Macron’s En Marche (On the Move) party, calling the 39-year-old champion of diversity “unscrupulous.”
Casting herself as the best defender against the jihadists who have killed over 230 people in France since 2015, Le Pen also tore into Fillon, accusing him of letting ultraconservative Islam gain ground when he was prime minister between 2007 and 2012.