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Macron’s rivals rally supporters as presidential election inches closer

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Far-right candidate Eric Zemmour rallied thousands of supporters near the Eiffel Tower, on March 28, 2022. (Photo by AFP)

Candidates in France’s upcoming presidential vote are making all-out efforts to make their presence felt, with polls suggesting that Emmanuel Macron is most likely to win re-election. 

Several contenders, including far-right Eric Zemmour, rallied their supporters on Sunday, with two weeks to go to the much-anticipated election.

Zemmour told his supporters, who included first-time voters and former conservatives, that voting for him was “crucial” to save France, as opposed to voting for Marine Le Pen, a fellow far-right leader.

“We are the most determined in France. We are the strongest on the internet. We are the most committed to political rallies. Now that we are rising, who can stop us?” he told the animated crowd.

“Nothing and nobody will stop us from writing the destiny of our country, nothing and nobody will steal this election from us,” he hastened to add.

Le Pen told the weekly newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche that Zemmour's program was “brutal in form but very limited in substance” while claiming to have a “draft law ready to be passed on immigration.”

Trailing below 10 percent in some polls, Zemmour is far short of Le Pen's roughly 20 percent and Macron at close to 30, which points to a run-off vote between Macron and Le Pen.

Le Pen was heckled on Saturday as she entered a hotel in the overseas territory of Guadeloupe where she was recording a television program, according to BFM TV.

Protesters chanted “out Le Pen” and “racist Le Pen,” as they encircled the candidate while she was escorted out of the room and through the hotel.

The leading left-wing candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon also rallied supporters in the Mediterranean port city Marseille on Sunday, looking to put up a challenge.

“We're going to talk about serious things, not money fantasies like the one or racist fantasies like the other,” Melenchon told the crowd, targeting Macron and Le Pen.

“We've suddenly said to ourselves 'we're going to make it (into the second round),” he added.

The first round of voting, which includes all candidates who get enough signatures to run, will take place on April 10. The two contenders with the most number of votes will then have a showdown on April 24.

Based on the latest polls, Macron and Le Pen are set to compete in the runoff.

Macron, whose tenure has been marked by corruption scandals, economic inequality, and unprecedented political repression, has avoided debates, preferring to focus on the crisis in Ukraine.

Asked about his campaigning on Sunday, Macron told broadcaster France 3 that "no-one would understand at a moment when there's war" if he was out electioneering "when decisions have to be made for our countrymen".

Anne Muxel, research director at Paris' Center for Political Research, stressed that the majority of French people “don't feel represented by political office-holders”.

“The systematic voter who voted out of duty, the voter who was loyal and faithful to political parties or candidates... no longer exists,” she was quoted as saying.

"Voters have a much more independent, individualized relationship to politics and their electoral choices, they're much more mobile, more volatile.”

France has only just ended the coronavirus restrictions, and the lack of political interest shows that they haven’t gotten back to normal.

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