French elections 2022: Le Pen urges France to defeat 'elitist bloc' in Macron showdown

Far-right candidate encourages supporters of third-placed Melenchon to come out and vote

French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen arrives at a gathering of supporters in Avignon on April 14. AFP

French far-right leader Marine Le Pen on Thursday urged France to defeat elitism and oligarchy in elections this month, as she seeks to attract left-wing voters to beat President Emmanuel Macron.

Centrist Mr Macron and Ms Le Pen went through to the April 24 run-off vote after finishing first and second in the April 10 first round.

But analysts say that the choice of voters who backed the third-placed candidate, the hard-left Jean-Luc Melenchon, will be crucial in determining the outcome of the vote.

In a major rally in the southern city of Avignon, Ms Le Pen, in a red jacket, said she was addressing "patriots of the right, patriots of the left".

"Victory has never been so near," she told about 4,000 supporters.

"Come out and vote. We are speaking to all the French. We hold out a firm hand but one of friendship and respect."

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Mr Macron earlier received a boost when his predecessor as president, the Socialist Francois Hollande, urged the French to back the incumbent in round two because Ms Le Pen "was putting our principles into doubt".

Mr Hollande told TF1 TV he was calling on France to vote for Mr Macron "for the sake of the cohesion of France" and its "European future".

Mr Macron this week also won the backing of right-wing former president Nicolas Sarkozy.

"We are almost at the end of the road, a long path that has often been steep and hit by gusts," said Ms Le Pen, who has moderated her image to give her the best chance yet for the Elysee.

Critics say her changes have only been in style, with hardline signature policies in place including making it illegal for women to wear the Muslim headscarf in public.

But Ms Le Pen urged France to block a new five-year term for Mr Macron to stop "social desolation and national deconstruction" and put an end to "this caste that governs us with arrogance; these few who rule for the benefit of the few".

"On April 24, the popular bloc will come face-to-face with the elitist bloc," she said.

It will be a showdown between the "people and the oligarchy", she said.

Ms Le Pen said Mr Macron was "not the man of a new era but the last avatar of a system that has run its course".

"I think the moment has come to put an end to a system that has run out of breath."

Ms Le Pen's choice of Avignon for her rally was carefully chosen, because Mr Melenchon had come out on top in the city in the first round of voting.

Mr Macron, who is due to host a major rally on Saturday in the southern city of Marseille, on Thursday visited the northern port city of Le Havre, where Mr Melenchon also led in the first round.

"I will try and convince all the voters," he said, as he went on a walk through the city, which is run by influential former prime minister Edouard Philippe.

The most recent polls have shown a tight contest between Mr Macron and Ms Le Pen, although there are signs that the president might be slightly extending a lead.

An Opinonway poll Wednesday showed Mr Macron on 53 per cent and Ms Le Pen on 47 per cent.

But even such a margin is too close for comfort for supporters of Mr Macron, who won more than 66 per cent against Ms Le Pen in their run-off in 2017.

A pivotal moment in the final phase of the campaign will come on April 20 when the two meet for their only live TV debate.

Updated: April 15, 2022, 3:26 AM
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