French campaign revs up with rival rallies, May Day marches

01 May 2017, 04:42 | Shawn Tate

France's wartime past has taken centre stage in the presidential race, with far-right hopeful Marine Le Pen's party scrambling to stamp out a controversy over Holocaust remarks while centrist Emmanuel Macron visited the site of a Nazi massacre.

French presidential election candidate for the far-right Front National (FN) party Marine Le Pen (L) arrives at the Alteo aluminium plant in Gardanne, southern France, on April 30, 2017. Many had hoped that mainstream politicians - on both the left and right - would unite against Le Pen's far-right in the run-off.

Mr Macron, a 39-year-old former economy minister, now has the support of 59.5 per cent of voters, compared with 40.5 per cent for Ms Le Pen, according to Bloomberg's composite of French polls.

"But ultimately people perceive her as the anti-European candidate".

Standing on the bridge, Macron hugged Bourram's son Said, who was 9 when his father was killed. "The choice of the French people is a choice for France but also for the European Union", he said.

In 2015, she booted him out of the party for repeatedly calling the Holocaust a "detail" of history but this month was herself criticised for saying France bore no responsibility for the round-up and deportation of French Jews during the war.

Monot downplayed concerns, noting that Le Pen wants to re-create the European Monetary System so that national currencies would float against each other within given bands.

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Cheers of "Marine President!" and anti-immigrant chants rose up in the crowd of thousands for Le Pen's rally north of Paris.

Opinion polls show that while an overwhelming majority of FN voters back a return to the Franc, about three quarters of French voters want to keep the euro, making it a major hurdle to Le Pen's quest for power.

Voter surveys show Macron winning next Sunday with 59-60 percent of the vote, and Le Pen's plans to quit the European Union and the euro are among the least popular policies in her protectionist, anti-immigration electoral platform.

While 295 jobs are threatened by outsourcing to Poland, Macron attempted to explain the benefits of globalization and promised he will do his best to secure their jobs - just like socialist candidate Francois Hollande promised ArcelorMittal workers in Florange, before the site definitely closed shortly after he was elected.

Macron, who if elected would become France's youngest president, paid his respects at Paris's Holocaust memorial, where he was greeted by France's grand rabbi, Haim Korsia.

Though Macron sounds triumphant, giving the impression that the presidency is in his bag, the commentators are urging no letup in the campaign as there are considerable pockets of Eurosceptic and far-right and right wing votes which can still go the Le Pen way, thus boosting her appeal. He is seeking to remind voters of the anti-Semitic past of his rival Marine Le Pen's far-right National Front.

Nassar noted that Ms Le Pen was now attempting to destroy Franco-German cooperation. The result propels Marine Le Pen and Macron into the second round of the election on May 7. Florian Philippot, a National Front vice president, told BFM television this was "a turning point in this campaign". In their document, Le Pen and Dupont-Aignan therefore make a few modifications to nationalist or xenophobic policies of the FN that provoked particular media attention and popular hostility.



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