Sunday 23rd April, 2017
in-fight-for-power-french-voters-seek-a-leader-who-can-turn-their-country-around-promise-growth-and-protection

PARIS, France - As French Presidential candidates headed in to the final hours of campaigning, to secure a chance of qualifying for the run-off on May 7 - Centrist Emmanuel Macron continued to ace the polls.

According to a poll by Harris Interactive-France Televisions released on Thursday, support for Macron rose one point to 25 percent, while Le Pen was unchanged at 22 percent.

Fillon slipped one point to 19 percent, level with Communist-backed Jean-Luc Melenchon. 

The four leading candidates made their final appeal to voters, with two candidates, Nationalist Marine Le Pen and Republican Francois Fillon using a strategy to attack Macron - in a bid to destabilize his lead. 

The four-way race will witness its first round on Sunday, when millions of French voters head to the polls.

French voters are watching the race closely, seeking a leader who can turn their country around after years of sub-par growth and a wave of attacks by Islamist terrorists fueled a backlash against the political establishment. 

39-year-old Macron, who is a former investment banker has never won elected office. 

Through the campaigning period, he has sought to portray himself as a clean break with the past.

Macron would become the youngest French leader since Napoleon if elected president.

However, playing on the very factors that have impressed voters who vow to elect him president, Macron’s rivals claimed on Wednesday that the ideas proposed by the former economy minister are weak and vague. 

Addressing a rally in the southern port-city of Marseille on Wednesday evening, the National Front’s Le Pen called for a national and democratic “insurrection” against the establishment.

Le Pen, in her last big rally before the first round of voting mocked Macron, saying he “feels faint” whenever he has to make a decision. 

She continued to bank on her most popular campaign promises of strengthening her anti-immigration and security stance.

Meanwhile, Fillon, whose campaign has been dogged by a financial embezzlement scandal, said, “Emmanuel Macron gives the impression in what he says that he doesn’t defend national identity, the historic narrative, the cultural roots. As if all this was old-fashioned.”

Fillon also added, “On the fight against Islamism as on everything else, Macron is vague. You can feel there is no determination in him to fight efficiently against this danger, which he hasn’t even diagnosed.”

Macron too held a rally in Nantes with Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.

He reassured voters against his rivals’ tactics of portraying him as an inexperienced candidate.

He persuaded voters he can keep the country safe and made a point to get his audience to applaud police officers of the anti-terrorism unit deployed at his rally on Wednesday night.

The candidate said, “I want to tell you how much I see the fight against terrorism as important. The mission of a head of state is to guarantee your security, and I am ready for that key mission.”

Macron also attacked Le Pen for her remark that if she had been in the presidential Elysee Palace, there would have been no terrorist attacks in recent years. 

He countered the “Vile and unworthy statements” and said, “Madame Le Pen isn’t worthy of leading our Republic.”

According to newspaper Le Parisien, Macron will receive the backing of several former center-right ministers, who will endorse him in an open letter to be published in the press on Friday. 

Polls have shown that in the final weeks of campaign, Macron’s supporters have grown more certain to vote, after earlier including more waverers than any of his rivals.

Meanwhile, as the first round campaign draws to a close, security details protecting the candidates have been bolstered.

Intelligence services had earlier detected an imminent threat and have ensured that the presidential race is secured. 

Earlier this week, Interior Minister Matthias Fekl said said that authorities arrested two men in the southern city of Marseille for planning an attack during the presidential race.

With France set to head to the polls, Sunday's vote is being seen as one of several major elections in Western Europe this year.

The first round of voting for France's next president is scheduled to be held on Sunday. 

However, if none of the 11 candidates wins more than 50 percent of the vote, there will be a runoff between the two top candidates on May 7. 

The winner in this round will become president.

Followed by this, in June, there will also be a two-round legislative election to select the French Parliament.

To win a seat in the National Assembly, a candidate must receive at least 50 percent of the vote on June 11, with a required minimum of 25 percent registered-voter turnout. Any races not reaching those thresholds will require a June 18 runoff.

Most of the polls for first-round voting have given Macron and Le Pen a slight edge. 

Fillon and Melenchon too, however, are not far behind. 

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