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Opponents of the far-right plan in France protest ahead of the start of last week’s election campaign

Protests were expected across France on Saturday as opponents of far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen seek to form a united front to prevent her from winning a runoff against incumbent Emmanuel Macron on April 24.

Police have warned of possible incidents as protesters converge in around 30 cities.

Macron, a pro-European centrist, won the presidency in 2017 after easily beating Le Pen as voters rallied behind him in the runoff to keep the far right out of power.

This year, last Sunday’s first ballot sparked the same struggle, but Macron faces a much tougher challenge.

He’s slightly ahead in opinion polls, but ahead of the first round on April 10, Le Pen successfully capitalized on anger over the cost of living and the perception that Macron is disconnected from everyday needs. She ended up with 23.1% of the vote compared to 27.85% for Macron.

However, she appeared more uncertain this week as focus has turned to her program and opinion polls have shown Macron is widening his lead. An IPSOS Sopra Steria poll on Friday showed the president won the runoff with 56% of the vote.

He has won the support of former Presidents Nicolas Sarkozy and Francois Hollande. Hundreds of celebrities and athletes have also backed him to prevent Le Pen from taking power.

CALL TO REJECT LE PEN

Le Pen, whose stance is anti-immigrant and Eurosceptic, has sought to soften her image and that of her national rally party in recent years. Opponents, including Macron, have said their program is full of lies and false promises – an accusation Le Pen has denied.

“The far right is once again bolstered in the second round of the presidential election with an unprecedented level of support. We refuse to see them rise to power,” the Human Rights League said in a joint statement announcing the protests. Dozens of other rights groups, unions and associations have signed the protest call.

“By rejecting Marine Le Pen, the point is to stop the arrival of a project that would destroy the rule of law, the social-democratic republic and the solidarity that we defend every day,” the statement said.

With the electorate fragmented and indecisive, the election is likely to be won by the candidate who can reach beyond his or her camp and convince a larger number of voters that the other option would be far worse.

For decades, a “Republican front” of voters of all stripes rallied behind a mainstream candidate helped keep the far right out of power.

But Macron, who has annoyed many voters with his sometimes harsh style and his right-wing politics, can no longer automatically count on that.

Anti-Macron protesters will also gather in central Paris on Saturday. Speaking to BFM TV, Louis Aliot, a prominent member of the National Rally Party, dismissed the protests against the far right.

“Mr Macron has broken society for the last five years and many of these people have protested against it. Do you really think people are idiots?” he said.

https://www.ibtimes.com/opponents-french-far-right-plan-protests-election-campaign-enters-final-week-3476087?utm_source=Public&utm_medium=Feed&utm_campaign=Distribution Opponents of the far-right plan in France protest ahead of the start of last week’s election campaign

Brian Ashcraft

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