Le Pen ‘more worried’ than Macron as French presidential election just DAYS away

Macron ally warns of 'hidden Frexit' in Le Pen's agenda

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French voters will head to the polls in less than a week for the second round of voting in France’s presidential elections. President Macron will go up against far-right opposition candidate Ms Le Pen on 24 April as he looks to secure a second term in power.

The pair are deploying their final efforts to drum up public support ahead of the election, which looks set to be closer than when the two candidates last battled for the presidency in 2017.

Ms Le Pen has reportedly scaled back on campaigning to prepare for the pair’s high-stakes televised debate on Wednesday evening, which could be a pivotal moment in this year’s election.

Meanwhile, Mr Macron is continuing with his presidential duties right up to the two-hour debate, leading some political experts to suggest the sitting president is less concerned about his standoff with the National Rally leader than his opponent.

Mujtaba Rahman, European managing director for the Eurasia Group, tweeted: “Le Pen has withdrawn from campaigning to give herself 48h to study notes & spar with “Macron stand-ins” before their 2h debate at 9pm CET tomorrow

“Macron will carry on campaigning until late Weds PM & chair cabinet as usual on Weds AM.

“One seems more worried than the other.”

Polling suggests Mr Macron has consolidated his lead over Le Pen as the election enters its final week.

Less than a week ahead of the runoff vote, all 16 polls carried out since the first-round vote on 10 April have put the incumbent ahead, by between seven and 12 percentage points.

However, both candidates have reportedly opted for lighter agendas ahead of the high-profile TV debate which could prove a pivotal moment in the election campaign.

Mr Macron decisively emerged as the stronger candidate when the pair met for the same debate ahead of voting in 2017, before winning the election comfortably days later.

Ms Le Pen’s poor performance was widely seen as a major factor in her defeat.

However, Ms Le Pen has insisted that she is better prepared this time around.

Speaking on the campaign trail in Normandy on Monday, she said: “I hope it’s a real confrontation of ideas and not the succession of invective, fake news and excess like I’ve heard over the past week.”

Mr Macron has also appeared confident ahead of his meeting with his challenger.

He told French broadcaster TF1 on Sunday night that he believed he had “a winning project that deserves to be known – and the feeling that on the far-right side, there is a programme that deserves to be clarified”.

The National Rally (Rassemblement National) leader secured 23.1 percent of the vote against Mr Macron in the first round vote, sharply narrowing the early gap between the two candidates.

Political commentators have attributed her success to her campaign’s focus on cost of living issues rather than her hard-line stance on issues such as immigration, following an attempt to detoxify the party.

However, polls suggest a more intense scrutiny of her economic, welfare, immigration, foreign and environment policies may have slowed her momentum.

Mr Macron’s team have also stepped up attacks on Ms Le Pen as the election nears, with the French president himself blasting her for attempting to mask her party’s far-right radicalism in an attempt to clean up her image.

Asked on France Channel 5 about Ms Le Pen’s political leanings, Mr Macron responded he was in “no doubt” she was “far right”.

He said: “I see the people who support her and the ideas she defends and they are not centre-right or republican right ideas.

“The Le Pen family has defended the same ideas in eight presidential elections.

“They have changed the surface a bit to get more support, but they are the same ideas.”

Ms Le Pen has attempted to distance her politics from the far-right stance of her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, who founded the party, including changing its name from the National Front to the National Rally.

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She has also taken on a comparatively softer approach to Europe and issues such as immigration to her father in an attempt to win over voters.

However, Mr Macron said this was a “front” to win support.

He insisted that Ms Le Pen had actually become “maybe even more radical on some subjects, such as identity, asylum, Europe”.

France’s finance minister Bruno Le Maire also accused Ms Le Pen of planning to bring France closer to Vladimir Putin as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine rages on.

He told Europe1 that the presidential hopeful would “hand France’s sovereignty to Vladimir Putin and to Russia” if elected.

The National Rally leader sparked outrage this week when she called for France to “engage” with Russia after the war in Ukraine in order to prevent an alliance between Moscow and Beijing.

However, some allies of Mr Macron have warned the result of the election is not yet certain.

French Prime Minister Jean Castex said on Tuesday that “the game is not done and dusted”.

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