France Votes on Macron and Le Pen’s Different Visions

Bloomberg — French voters are heading to the polls for the second time in two weeks to conclude a presidential election in which incumbent centrist Emmanuel Macron has the advantage in surveys over nationalist Marine Le Pen.

The candidates’ plans are diametrically opposed. At home, Macron, is sticking to his credo of pro-business overhauls — including an increase in the retirement age — to foster more work and make the economy more competitive. Le Pen proposes that the French retire earlier than the minimum age of 62, and promises to cut sales and income taxes in order to support households.

Macron, for the European Union is sticking to his signature line of strengthening European sovereignty through projects that can include more joint investment. Le Pen does not want to leave the EU. However, his proposals to make it a looser union of nations with a referendum that would assert French law’s primacy over EU laws and transform it into an alliance of countries will undermine the bloc.

It is the same showdown as in 2017, where Macron won by almost 33 percentage points. This time, the last polls published before Saturday’s campaigning blackout showed the gap at about 11 points.

Marine Le Pen leaves the booth in Henin Beaumont to cast her vote for the 2nd round, France’s presidential election.

Markets were shaken when polls showed that the difference between candidates was only two percentage points after the April 10th round. But Macron gradually pulled further ahead as Le Pen failed to capitalize on gains she’d made by centering her campaign on how to solve a looming cost-of-living crisis.

His wife Brigitte and the French president voted in Le Touquet (northern coastal town), at midday. Le Pen voted at Henin Beaumont, which is 75 miles from Macron’s vote.

Even though they plan events for Paris at night, the candidates choose different places with different symbolsism. Le Pen is located in Paris’ Bois de Boulogne, on the outskirts. Macron plans to address supporters in Paris at the Champ de Mars (in the shadow of Eiffel Tower).

According to statistics from the interior ministry, 26.41 percent of French-speaking electorates had registered for the vote at midday French. That’s lower than at the two previous elections in 2017 and 2012 when the participation rate at the same time was 28.23% and 30.66% respectively. But it’s slightly higher than the level seen in the first round two weeks ago, when 25.48% had voted by 12 p.m.

Marine Le Pen was the five-times far-right presidential nominee. She had a chance at closing that gap with Macron during almost three hours of live discussion on Wednesday. Yet she struggled to do so, while Macron turned the spotlight on policies that echo her father’s more extremist views, such as banning the Muslim veil in all public spaces.

On the final day of campaigning Friday, Le Pen told voters in northern France that Macron was trying to “brutalize” her during the debate and that “the disdain” he showed her was reflective of how he sees the French.

At the other end of the county in the southern town of Figeac, Macron called on his supporters to convince as many people as possible to rally round him, an attempt to activate the “Republican front” — a term for cross-party opposition that has prevented the far-right from taking power. He insisted his victory isn’t a done deal.

“It’s a referendum on the future of France,” Macron told BFMTV. “I am working until midnight and then I will be in a state of humility and reflection.”

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