French election: Emmanuel Macron’s rally looks like a royal visit, as supporters of the far-right leader chant “President Marine” | World News – News 24 | News in France and abroad

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

Here they sum up the feeling on the pitch ahead of a second round on Sunday.

By Adam Parsons, Europe correspondent, in Saint-Denis

If Emmanuel Macron is nervous then he hides it well.

When he arrived here, in Saint-Denis, just north of Paris, he beamed and waved to the crowd, then spent hours talking to people.

Emmanuel Macron in the electoral campaign in Saint-Denis

It was less a political rally than a royal visit. It even ended with an unscheduled extra walk, leaving his security guards rushing into action as the crowd called his name.

There was an important resonance to all of this. Saint-Denis has many problems with deprivation, crime and economic uncertainty. In the first round of the election, half of voters here threw their support behind Socialist candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon, with many deriding Mr Macron as elitist and out of touch.

It was a theme echoed by Marine Le Pen, who has spent this entire campaign positioning herself as the champion of the French working class. She, like Mr. Melenchon, told the country that the time had come for more radical solutions; that Mr. Macron is more interested in polishing his image than fighting poverty.

Emmanuel Macron has been president since 2017

So the president was here, trying to demonstrate that he understands the pressure on revenue and that, yes, he appreciates the pain of deprivation. He moved, slowly, along a line of hands, answering questions and listening to problems. He said he understood there were serious economic challenges but, as some in the crowd sang the Yellow Vests anthem “We are here”, Mr Macron insisted he had already taken steps to respond to the spiraling cost of living.

He also insisted that Mrs Le Pen’s economic plan was a mess, just as it had done during a televised debate, and that she had dangerously mixed up issues of security, migration, religion and crime.

And that’s another reason why he came to Saint-Denis. Mr Macron is keen for the French public to believe that – despite all his claims to the contrary – Mrs Le Pen remains an unreconstructed racist.

President Macron leads in the polls
President Macron leads in the polls

Here, surrounded by an ethnically diverse crowd, he provided a contrast. And remember – France has the largest Muslim population in Europe. Mr Macron hopes that a huge percentage of these people will vote for him.

But this visit was not really about political announcements. It was about smiling, shaking hands, soaking up adulation, and being seen to be listening. He knows he is well ahead in the polls. His goal now is to avoid doing something wrong.

By Dominic Waghorn, international affairs editor, in Arras

Marine Le Pen has longed for this moment for decades. The far-right politician has never been so close to the presidency. But is it close enough?

His faithful and fervent supporters hope so. They turned out in large numbers to her latest rally in Arras, chanting “President Marine” and booing every mention of her rival Emmanuel Macron as she whipped them off the stage.

Marine Le Pen, candidate of France's far-right Rassemblement national (National Rally) party in the 2022 French presidential election, reacts as she sits in a truck during a visit to a truck stop in Roye as 'She campaigns near Arras, before the second round of the presidential election, France, April 21, 2022. REUTERS/Yves Herman
Marine Le Pen in the countryside near Arras

It is the latest incarnation of Marine Le Pen. She has worked to soften her image, hoping to give the impression that she cares, especially about the woes of the ordinary citizen facing a cost of living crisis. And at a truck stop in Roye, northern France, his message seemed to hit home.

“She is worried about the cost of living,” a young mother tells us. “She has her head on her shoulders to become president. »

Isn’t she racist, though, I asked? “A lot of people think she’s racist but she’s not. She thinks of us first before thinking of others. »

A father told us: “No, she is not racist, she thinks of France. »

Marine Le Pen supporters in Arras
Supporters of Marine Le Pen deny that she is racist

In Roye, Ms. Le Pen won nearly half of the votes in the first round of this election. We met Joselito Leroy, a baker. Standing in a typically French scene, surrounded by chopsticks, he told us his parents were Spanish immigrants and yet he will vote for a woman who wants to see immigration reduced by 75%.

But then he said he would probably vote for anyone, as long as it wasn’t Mr Macron. “From my point of view, we need change. If it wasn’t Le Pen but another candidate, I would vote for the other candidate, anyone other than Macron. Things have to change. »

Disenchantment with the status quo is gaining wider support from Ms Le Pen who may cause some on the far left to come full circle in support of someone on the far right. But not in sufficient numbers to take him to the Elysée, it seems.

As it stands, and if the polls are accurate, things won’t change. The current president is still up to 10 points ahead.

Marine le Pen signs autographs for supporters after meeting truckers near Roye
Marine le Pen after meeting truckers near Roye

Marine Le Pen had a chance to change that during this week’s televised debate, but failed to deliver any blows to Mr Macron, although she did better than in 2017, when a lackluster performance cemented his victory.

Does she still think she can win, I asked her. She said: “I think I have every chance of winning. I think the French will mobilize after a devastating first Macron term. The French have understood perfectly, last night and the previous days, that it can only get worse. A second Macron term would totally destroy France socially.

These are unpredictable times that favor disruptors and have confounded polls in other democracies.

But French pollsters were more accurate than most. The far right has moved closer to power with every election, it seems. But they may end up having to console themselves with that fact and dream about next time, rather than preparing for power now.

We want to thank the writer of this write-up for this remarkable material

French election: Emmanuel Macron’s rally looks like a royal visit, as supporters of the far-right leader chant “President Marine” | World News – News 24 | News in France and abroad