President Emmanuel Macron meets Marine Le Pen

In the second – and final – round of voting, centrist incumbent Emmanuel Macron meets nationalist and far-right candidate Marine Le Pen.

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French citizens are heading to Sunday’s presidential election amid war in Ukraine and a cost of living crisis.

In the second – and final – round of voting, centrist incumbent Emmanuel Macron meets nationalist and far-right candidate Marine Le Pen. The same pair were also in the last runoff in the 2017 election, but political commentators believe Le Pen has lost her chances improved this time.

“While Macron is likely to be re-elected on Sunday, around 13-15% of voters remain undecided. Therefore, there is still room for surprises,” Antonio Barroso, deputy research director at consultancy Teneo, said in a research note Thursday.

Barroso said one possible route to a Le Pen victory would be if a significant number of voters who backed the far-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon in the first ballot suddenly switched to the far-right instead of staying at home or make a choice empty voice.

A poll conducted on Thursday predicted that Macron would win the second round with 55% of the vote, while Le Pen’s comes in at 45%. However, this is a smaller margin compared to the final result of France’s 2017 elections, when Macron crushed Le Pen’s party (Front National, now renamed National Rally) with 66.1% of the vote to 33.9%.

“Opinion polls now give Macron a 55% to 45% lead over Le Pen. Over the past five years, polls have not underestimated support for Le Pen. But with up to 25% of voters undecided earlier this week, we cannot rule out an angry victory for Le Pen,” analysts at Berenberg said in a research note on Friday, adding that “for France and the EU, much is at stake”.

Le Pen has softened her rhetoric towards the European Union since 2017. She is no longer campaigning for France to leave the EU and the euro, and says she wants to turn the bloc into an alliance of nations – and fundamentally change the way it works. She also wants French troops to withdraw from NATO’s military command.

“Le Pen’s narrow-minded ‘France First’ approach and her desire to put her own French rules ahead of EU rules would create constant bickering with the EU, hurt the business climate and deter foreign investors. France would fall behind,” Berenberg said -Analysts.

They added: “It wants to preserve outdated economic structures through subsidies and regulations. She is toying with the idea of ​​lowering the retirement age from 62 to 60 after 40 or 42 years of service, while Macron wants to raise the retirement age to 65. “

TV debate

In the final days of the campaign, Le Pen’s old ties to Russia and President Vladimir Putin have resurfaced. In a pivotal TV debate against Macron on Wednesday, Le Pen was accused of being “dependent” on Russia.

Macron told Le Pen during the two-hour talks, “If you’re going to talk to Russia, talk to your banker,” one translation reads. As early as 2014, Le Pen’s party is said to have applied for loans from Russian banks, including First Czech Russian Bank – a lender said to have ties to the Kremlin. Le Pen denied the allegations on Wednesday, saying: “I am a completely free woman.”

Jim Shields, a professor of French politics at Warwick University, told CNBC on Wednesday that Macron has had the difficult task of defending his five-year tenure but also presenting a new vision for the future.

“Le Pen can play the change card much better than Macron this time,” he said. “What he needs to do is show empathy, get off his high horse, try to show that he cares about people’s day-to-day concerns, that he’s not the president of the rich that many accuse him of,” he added pointed to rising inflation in France, which has become a pillar of Le Pen’s campaign.

“Each of the two candidates must try to correct their perceived weakness. Lack of credibility for Le Pen, lack of connectedness for Macron, lack of empathy to win new voters,” Shields said.

If Macron is re-elected, he will become the first incumbent in two decades to return for a second term. Yields on the 10-year French government bond have risen ahead of the elections, breaching the 1% mark in early April on heightened concerns about inflation and the war in Ukraine. President Emmanuel Macron meets Marine Le Pen

Chrissy Callahan

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