French election: Marine Le Pen needs new voters to beat Emmanuel Macron – but plays it safe as campaign ends | World News


Sky News correspondents Adam Parsons and Dominic Waghorn are on the French presidential campaign trail with Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen.

With two days until the crucial run-off vote, here’s their take on the candidates’ final push.

Dominic Waghorn, international affairs editor, in Etaples

Marine Le Pen is behind in the polls and cannot afford to be complacent. In that situation you might think she would be taking risks.

Instead she is playing it safe staying in places where voters like her.

The challenger is struggling to erode Mr Macron’s lead

Today, she was in a town that voted overwhelmingly in her favour in the first round of this election.

She was preaching to the choir here, feted in a market in Etaples, greeted by many as a saviour among the fresh fruit and bric-a-brac stalls.

It was a predictably enthusiastic reception. But will do little to restore her electoral fortunes or find her the new voters she desperately needs.

Marine Le Pen, French far-right National Rally (Rassemblement National) party candidate for the 2022 French presidential election, visits a local market in Etaples on the last day of campaigning, ahead of the second round of the presidential election, France, April 22, 2022. REUTERS/Yves Herman
Ms Le Pen was among supporters in Etaples, near Boulogne

In the last day of campaigning in this election Ms Le Pen’s wheels appear to be spinning. She is having trouble gaining the traction required to narrow Emmanuel Macron’s lead.

These are unpredictable volatile times that have delivered surprises in other democracies.

But French pollsters are more accurate than many, and without a major upset that they have failed to foresee, Mr Macron seems assured of a comfortable victory.

By Adam Parsons, Europe correspondent, in Figeac

Emmanuel Macron finished his election campaign in a setting almost too perfectly French to be true.

Figeac, in the Lot region of southern France, was bathed in sunshine, glinting off its old, sandy market square buildings. Around it lies a calming pastoral landscape. Normally, it’s a tranquil place; today – not so much.

Pic: AP
The president is well practised at being a crowd pleaser. Pic: AP

By the time he arrived in the heart of the town, there was a big crowd to meet him.

In reality, it was probably just four or five hundred but here, squeezed between small streets and tall buildings, it was a pressing crowd, and the noise reverberated.

Macron loved it. Whatever you might think of him as a politician, and my goodness he has his critics, he is a showman.

So we had all the familiar traits – the big smiles, talking without notes, interacting with his audience.

Where’s Macron? The president was surrounded in the streets of Figeac

He was heckled by a group of protesters, who unfurled a banner protesting against privatisation. Macron looked up at them, and told them how lucky they were to live in a democracy where they could, as he put it, “harangue the president”.

Halfway through his speech, the suit jacket was pulled off, and the shirt sleeves rolled up.

There was the rallying call about protecting the values of the Republic and then, cacophonously, came the national anthem and, pointedly, Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, anthem of the European Union.

And the message from all this? Not just the scripted ones – about his competence with the economy, his experience, his acumen in foreign affairs, but also something less overt.

French President Macron, candidate for his re-election, campaigns in Figeac
Mr Macron rolled up his sleeves for a final day of campaigning

This was a denouement that was framed by the theme of reassurance – here, in a village of almost ludicrous Frenchness, the president was assuring his people that he was a safe choice, that he cherished his country and that he would protect its traditions.

Marine Le Pen, he has always argued, is a danger to French values.

Indeed, he said her threat to ban a head-dress worn by many Muslim women risked causing “a civil war”. Sunday’s election, he told the crowd here, was a referendum on France’s devotion to democracy, secularism and unity.

He left the stage but then spent ages shaking hands, listening to questions from locals and smiling for photos. For him, the campaign is over.

It’s up to France to decide whether to back continuity or radical change.

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