POISSY – From the market stand near Paris, which he has ruled for 40 years, Yvette Robert can see first hand how much rising prices weigh on the French presidential election and turn the first round of voting on Sunday to irritate incumbent Emmanuel Macron.
Buyers, increasingly concerned about how to make ends meet, are buying smaller and smaller quantities of Robert’s well-arranged fruits and vegetables, she said. And some of her customers no longer come to market for his baguettes, cheeses and other delicious offerings. Robert suspects that with such high fuel prices, some can no longer afford to take their cars shopping.
“People are scared – of everything that is rising, of rising fuel prices,” she said on Friday as the campaign ended for the first act of France’s two-part election drama set amid Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Macron, a political centrist, seemed for months to intervene to become France’s first president in 20 years to win a second term. But this scenario faded into the final stages of the campaign. The pain of inflation and the prices of pumps, food and energy, which hit low-income households particularly hard, has since returned to a dominant election theme. They could bring many voters into the arms of far-right leader Marin Le Pen, Macron’s political enemy, on Sunday.
Macron, now 44, defeated Le Pen with a crushing effect to become France’s youngest president in 2017. The victory for the former banker, who, unlike Le Pen, is an ardent supporter of European cooperation, is seen as a victory against the upcoming populist, nationalist policies following Donald Trump’s election to the White House and Britain’s vote to leave the European Union in 2016.
There are economic successes in voter courtship that Macron has to point out: The French economy is recovering faster than expected from the COVID-19 strikes, with a growth rate of 7% in 2021, the highest since 1969. Unemployment dropped to unprecedented levels since the 2008 financial crisis. When Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24th, sparking Europe’s worst security crisis since World War II, Macron also received a poll as people rallied around the wartime leader.
But Le Pen, 53, is now a more sophisticated, great and understanding political enemy as she makes her third attempt to become France’s first female president. And she has been campaigning particularly vigorously and for months over the cost of living, taking advantage of an issue that sociologists say is at the forefront of voters’ minds.
Le Pen also did two remarkable feats. Despite plans to curtail immigration and revoke some rights for Muslims in France, she still seems to have convinced a growing number of voters that she is no longer the dangerous racist nationalist extremist accused by critics, including Macron.
She did so in part, diluting some of her rhetoric and fervor. She also had outside help: a presidential-run by Eric Zemmour, an even more extreme far-right bandit with multiple hate speech convictions, had a huge benefit for Le Pen, making her look almost mainstream in comparison.
Second, and also stunning: Le Pen deftly avoided any significant backlash over her previous alleged closeness to Russian President Vladimir Putin. She went to the Kremlin to meet with him during her last presidential campaign in 2017. But after the war in Ukraine, this potential shame does not seem to have turned Le Pen’s supporters against her. She called the invasion “absolutely indefensible” and said Putin’s behavior could not be excused “in any way”.
At his market stall, Robert says he plans to vote for Macron, in part because of the billions of euros (dollars) his government has set aside in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic to support France’s people, business and economy. When food markets closed, Robert received 1,500 euros ($ 1,600) a month to reassure her.
“He didn’t leave anyone by the roadside,” she told Macron.
But she believes this time Le Pen also has a chance.
“She changed the way she spoke,” Robert said. “She’s learned to control herself.”
With the exception of a monumental surprise, both Macron and Le Pen are expected to advance again from the 12 candidates in the first round to arrange a rematch for the winner taking everything in the second round on April 24. Surveys show that far-left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon is likely to finish third. Some of France’s overseas territories in the Pacific, Caribbean and South America voted on Saturday, before Sunday’s vote in mainland France.
When Macron halted his campaign in Poissy, the city west of Paris where Robert has his booth, in early March, sociologists led him to bring out Le Pen with double digits. Although Le Pen’s victory still looks incredible, much of Macron’s advantage has since evaporated. Busy with the war in Ukraine, Macron may pay a price for his somewhat restrained campaign, which has made him look out of place to some voters.
Marie-Helene Hirel, a 64-year-old retired tax collector, voted for Macron in 2017, but said she was too angry with him to do it again. Fighting his pension with rising prices, Hirel said he plans to move his vote to Le Pen, which has promised to cut fuel and energy taxes, which Macron says would be disastrous.
Although “Le Pen’s relationship with Putin worries me,” Hirel said voting for her would be a way to protest against Macron and what she saw as his failure to better protect people from the sting of inflation.
“Now I am part of the All Against Macron camp,” she said. “He makes fools of us all.”
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In France, devastating elections as Macron’s rival grows
Source link In France, devastating elections as Macron’s rival grows