The two remaining candidates in France’s Presidential race, Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen continued their election campaigns, ten days before they face each other in the run-off on May 7.
A heavy favorite in the polls, Macron has faced criticism for celebrating his first round victory in an expensive Parisian restaurant. His opponent lost no time in rallying her supporters, making an impressive start to the second round campaign.
A poll published today showed Macron maintaining a clear lead over Le Pen, but lost one percentage point in comparison to previous polls. The poll put Macron at 59 percent, and Le Pen at 41.
Traditionally, the French political establishment has been successful in uniting against the Front National and barring it from reaching power. Both Francois Fillon and Benoit Hamon, candidates of the two of mainstream French political parties, the Republicans and Socialists, backed Macron. The incumbent Socialist President Francois Hollande also threw his support behind Macron, telling his ministers they must do everything possible to ensure Le Pen defeat.
“Hollande has asked ministers to fully commit themselves in the election campaign to ensure that Marine Le Pen has the lowest possible result,” French presidential spokesman, Stephane Le Foll, said at the Council of Ministries on Wednesday.
“Macron goes into the second round on a carpet of rose petals with almost total support from the French mainstream media, elites, trade union organizations, entrepreneurs.
But it’s OK, I prefer to be supported by the French people,” Le Pen told in an interview of France 2 TV channel.
However, there are indicators that the traditional anti-FN front is not as effective as it had once been. Jean-Luc Melenschon, a candidate of the left who won almost 20 percent in the first round, has not yet backed any candidate.
Similarly, a large percentage of disgruntled voters may abstain from voting, while many of them, refusing to back either Macron or Le Pen, will cast empty ballots as a sign of protest.
A potentially low turnout may be a problem for Macron, whose voter base is not as solid as Le Pen’s. Furthermore, Macron is having problems motivating his supporters, at a time when the mainstream media and French intellectual and political elites already proclaimed him as the winner.
In the meantime, Le Pen wasted no time in using the momentum to her advantage. Flanked by fans and fishermen in the Port de Grau port west of Marseille, Le Pen told a large number of journalists assembled on the quayside that she would defend the French fishing sector from invasive European regulations.
“Let me warn you, that man will destroy our entire social and economic structure,” she said, aiming at her opponent.
Not much later, the 39-year old former Economy Minister, wrote mockingly on Twitter:
“Madame Le Pen is gone fishing. Enjoy the outing. The exit from Europe that she is proposing will spell the end of French fisheries.”
On Wednesday, Le Pen made a surprise visit to a Whirlpool plant in Amiens, while Macron was speaking with union leaders inside the plant. Le Pen took pictures with workers and denounced Macron as the candidate of the corporations and big business.
Macron was then greeted with boos and shouts of ‘President Marine‘.
Despite her success in the first days of the run-off campaign, Le Pen still has a mountain to climb. Providing she maintains a positive momentum in the polls, Le Pen needs to overcome a 10 percentage point difference between her and Macron.