Emmanuel Macron yesterday warned of a French future of “hatred” and economic ruin if rival Marine Le Pen clinches tomorrow’s presidential run-off.
The French president chose an idyllic medieval village in south-western France for his final campaign stop to paint a glowing vision of the country’s future if he is re-elected.
With campaigning due to stop at midnight last night, polls suggest that the 44-year-old centrist incumbent is heading for victory against his 53-year-old nationalist rival after a bruising two weeks, the high point of which was a tense debate on Wednesday that many consider Mr Macron to have won on points.
Four separate surveys published since then showed Mr Macron’s score either stable or slightly rising to reach around 56pc.
However, with one placing Mr Macron on 53pc – almost within striking distance – and nearly three out of 10 voters saying they will abstain or have not made up their minds, Mr Macron warned: “Nothing is decided.”
He cited Brexit and Donald Trump’s election as cautionary tales of last-minute upsets. “A few hours from Brexit, millions of people said, ‘What’s the point of going out to vote?’” he said. “The next day they woke up with a hangover.”
In her final campaign stop in her heartland in the northern Pas-de-Calais, Ms Le Pen also called for supporters to turn out and confound predictions, saying: “Polls aren’t what decide an election.”
After spending Thursday afternoon in a poor, immigrant-heavy suburb of Paris, Mr Macron ended his campaign in a picture-postcard Figeac, in the Lot region – a rural area that is economically thriving and where unemployment is lower than the national average.
“I refuse to think you have to choose between loving the working-class urban areas or rural France, to choose between town and country. It’s false,” he said, pledging to improve local public services, healthcare and bring in more local gendarmes.
Beyond tourism, Figeac is an industrial success story that feeds into the Macron campaign narrative that he has injected new life into France’s flagging economy and created 1.2 million jobs over the past five years.
The town’s socialist mayor, who didn’t vote Mr Macron in the first round, said he would do so in the second “without hesitation”. But not everyone was so welcoming.
At one point, leftist protesters unfurled a banner saying: “When everything is private, we will be deprived of everything.” Another read: “President of the rich.”
French politics has become increasingly polarised in recent years. In an interview earlier yesterday, Mr Macron conceded that he had not been able to keep such anger in check during his mandate. “She (Le Pen) has managed to draw on some of what we did not manage to do, on some of the things I did not manage to do to pacify some of the anger,” he said.
Ms Le Pen, whose policies include a ban on Muslim headscarves in public, giving French nationals priority on jobs and benefits, and limiting Europe’s rules on cross-border travel, says Mr Macron embodies an elitism that has failed ordinary people.
Sunday was, she said, a referendum between “Macron and France”.
Edwige Boyer (63), a Macron municipal councillor in nearby Cajarc, said that she was not reassured about tomorrow’s run-off.
“I never thought we’d end up with the far-right so high,” she said. “I think Macron will win but it will be much closer than people think and I fear abstention.”
At the Champollion bookshop in the main square of Figeac, the owner, who declined to be named, said she had voted Melenchon in round one and would begrudgingly vote Macron in the run-off.
“I’m not voting with my heart but I’m too scared of a fascist regime not to vote,” she said.
(© Telegraph Media Group Ltd 2022)
Telegraph Media Group Limited