VOT­ERS SCEP­TI­CAL OF CAN­DI­DATES, SAYS POLL

Many don’t think Macron, Le Pen can solve un­em­ploy­ment, se­cu­rity is­sues or re­unite coun­try af­ter months of bit­ter cam­paign­ing

New Straits Times - - World -

AWEEK be­fore the de­ci­sive sec­ond round in France’s pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, many vot­ers are scep­ti­cal that ei­ther of the two can­di­dates can solve chronic un­em­ploy­ment or tackle se­cu­rity con­cerns, a poll pub­lished on Sun­day found.

The Ifop sur­vey for the Jour­nal

du Di­manche high­lights two key bat­tle­grounds as cen­trist pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Em­manuel Macron and far-right op­po­nent Marine Le Pen enter a fi­nal week of cam­paign­ing — France’s econ­omy and bor­ders.

Polls pre­dict that Macron, a for­mer econ­omy min­is­ter, will win the May 7 run-off with about 59 to 60 per cent.

But, the mo­men­tum has re­cently been with Le Pen, who has clawed back about five per­cent­age points over the past week.

Ac­cord­ing to the Ifop poll, 45 per cent of vot­ers be­lieved the two fi­nal­ists would not put an end to un­em­ploy­ment, which had for years stood close to 10 per cent.

And, 36 per cent said nei­ther can­di­date was able to pro­tect France from at­tacks.

France has been un­der a state of emer­gency since 2015 and has suf­fered a spate of Is­lamist mil­i­tant at­tacks, mostly per­pe­trated by young men who grew up in France and Bel­gium. More than 230 peo­ple have been killed in two years.

Days be­fore the first round of vot­ing on April 23, a po­lice­man was shot dead and two oth­ers were wounded here in an at­tack claimed by the Is­lamic State.

The re­sult of the run-off vote would de­pend to a large ex­tent on float­ing vot­ers and the level of ab­sten­tions. In the first round, 22.2 per cent of vot­ers ab­stained, the high­est per­cent­age since 2002, when Marine Le Pen’s fa­ther, Jean-Marie, won through to the sec­ond round only to be soundly de­feated by con­ser­va­tive Jacques Chirac.

This time, if turnout is low in the sec­ond round, an­a­lysts said Macron could strug­gle to re­pro­duce the same broad move­ment against the Na­tional Front can­di­date, cit­ing his mainly freemar­ket poli­cies at a time when anti-es­tab­lish­ment feel­ing had been on the rise in Europe and the United States.

Left-wing can­di­date Jean-Luc Me­len­chon, with 19.6 per cent of the votes in the first round, has urged his sup­port­ers to op­pose Le Pen, but has re­fused to back Macron for the sec­ond round.

Le Pen trav­elled to Mar­seille on Sun­day to speak on the environment, a key is­sue for Me­len­chon sup­port­ers, while Macron vis­ited the Holo­caust memo­rial here.

The Ifop poll found 42 per cent of vot­ers be­lieved nei­ther Macron nor Le Pen could re­unite the coun­try af­ter months of bit­ter cam­paign­ing, while 43 per cent ques­tioned whether ei­ther would be able to gov­ern af­ter cap­tur­ing the El­y­see palace.

France re­turns to the polls in June to se­lect mem­bers of the Na­tional Assem­bly, the lower house of Par­lia­ment, where a ma­jor­ity is needed to push through gov­ern­ment poli­cies.

Both Macron, who launched a new party a year ago, and Le Pen, whose Na­tional Front has only two seats in the Na­tional Assem­bly, have faced ques­tions about their abil­ity to build a par­lia­men­tary ma­jor­ity.

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