In France, touching elections as Macron’s rival erupts

POISSY, FRANCE (AP) – From the market stall outside Paris she’s been running for 40 years, Yvette Robert can see for herself how price hikes are affecting the French presidential election Turning the first round of voting on Sunday into nail-biting incumbent President Emmanuel Macron.

She says shoppers, increasingly concerned about how to make ends meet, are buying less of Robert’s carefully stacked fruits and vegetables. And some of its customers no longer come to the market at all to buy baguettes, cheese and other delicious offerings. Robert suspects that with fuel prices rising, some can no longer afford to take their cars shopping.

“People are scared — with everything going up, with soaring fuel prices,” she said Friday as she wrapped up the campaign trail for the first of the two-part French electoral drama, set against the backdrop of the Russian war in Ukraine..

Macron, a centrist, has looked for months as if he had managed to become the first president of France in 20 years to win a second term. But this scenario is not clear in the closing stages of the campaign. The pains of inflation and pump prices, food and energy hitting low-income families especially hard, are back as dominant electoral themes. They could push many voters on Sunday into the arms of far-right leader Marine Le Pen, Macron’s political enemy.

Macron, now 44, defeated Le Pen in a landslide He became France’s youngest president in 2017. The victory of the former banker who, unlike Le Pen, is a staunch supporter of European cooperation, was seen as a victory over populist nationalist politics, which comes on the heels of Donald Trump’s election to the White House Britain’s vote to leave the European Unionboth in 2016.

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In courting voters, Macron scored economic successes to point out: The French economy is recovering faster than expected from the COVID-19 strike, with a 2021 growth rate of 7%, the highest since 1969. Unemployment has fallen to levels not seen since the crisis Finance for 2008. When Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24sparking Europe’s worst security crisis since World War II, and Macron also got a bump on the ballot, as people rallied around the wartime leader.

But the 53-year-old Le Pen is now more polished, gorgeous and smart A political enemy as she makes her third attempt to become France’s first female president. It has campaigned especially hard for months on the cost of living, taking advantage of an issue that pollsters say is on the minds of voters in the first place.

Le Pen also has two impressive feats. Despite her plans to sharply reduce immigration and restore some rights to France’s Muslims, she appears to have convinced growing numbers of voters that she is no longer the dangerously racist nationalist her critics accuse her of, including Macron.

She did so in part by toning down her rhetoric and ferocity. She also got outside help: Eric Zemmour ran for presidenteven more extreme than the rabble-rousing of the far right With repeated condemnations of hate speech, it had the added benefit of Le Pen in making it appear almost mainstream by comparison.

Second, which is also amazing: Le Pen has brilliantly avoided any major backlash due to her past closeness to Russian President Vladimir Putin. I went to the Kremlin to meet him During her last presidential campaign in 2017. But in the aftermath of the war in Ukraine, this potential embarrassment does not appear to have turned Le Pen’s supporters against her. She called the invasion “totally untenable” and said Putin’s behavior could not be justified “in any way”.

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At her market stall, Robert says she plans to vote for Macron, in part because of the billions of euros (dollars) his government gave at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic to keep French people, businesses and the economy afloat. When the food markets closed, Robert was making 1,500 euros ($1,600) a month to get through.

“He didn’t leave anyone by the wayside,” she says of Macron.

But she thinks Le Pen has a chance this time, too.

“You’ve changed the way you speak,” Robert said. “She has learned to adjust herself.”

Barring a massive surprise, both Macron and Le Pen are expected to again advance from the 12-candidate first-round field, to prepare a winner-takes-all rematch in the second round of voting on April 24. Polls indicate that so far – left-leaning leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon is likely to finish the race in third place. Some French overseas territories in the Pacific, the Caribbean and South America will vote on Saturday, before voting on Sunday on the French mainland.

When Macron made a campaign stop in Boissy, the town west of Paris where Robert’s booth is, in early March, pollsters put him ahead of Le Pen by double digits. Although a Le Pen victory still seemed unlikely, much of Macron’s merits subsequently evaporated. Preoccupied with the war in Ukraine, Macron may be paying for his somewhat weak campaign, which has left him looking aloof to some voters.

Market leader Mary Helen Hurl, a 64-year-old retired tax collector, voted for Macron in 2017 but said she was too angry with him for doing so again. Herrell, who is struggling for her pension as prices rise, said she was considering shifting her vote to Le Pen, who has promised tax cuts on fuel and energy that Macron says will be devastating.

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Although “Le Pen’s relations with Putin worry me”, Herrell said a vote for her would be a way to protest Macron and what she sees as his failure to better protect people from the pinch of inflation.

“Now I am also part of the ‘all against Macron’ camp,” she said. “It makes us all fools.”


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