French President Emmanuel Macron rallied his supporters in Marseille on Saturday, hoping to sway voters who put leftist Jean-Luc Mélenchon ahead in the first round of France’s presidential election a week ago.
Macron faces far-right challenger Marine Le Pen in a run-off election on April 24, with polls indicating a close race.
The incumbent has sought to broaden his base of support this week by courting voters who backed third-placed Mélenchon in the first round.
He borrowed directly from the veteran leftist’s platform on Saturday by promising to put his next prime minister in charge of “ecological planning” (ecological planning) – a concept popularized by Mélenchon.
Addressing thousands of supporters in central Marseille, Macron promised a “complete renewal” of his policy. He announced that he would also appoint a minister for “energy planning” with “a mission to make France the first nation to end the consumption of oil, gas and coal”.
The French president, who hails from northern France, has sought to cultivate ties with Marseille during his tenure. He unveiled a plan to tackle drug violence and gang killings in the city during a visit in September.
But he was largely beaten in the first round of voting last Sunday, trailing Mélenchon in Marseille by 9 percentage points.
Macron and Le Pen are jostling to reach the 22% of voters who supported Mélenchon nationwide and now find themselves without a preferred candidate in the second round.
The far-right candidate still trails the incumbent in the polls, although she has narrowed the gap considerably since losing a lopsided contest five years ago. The most recent polls point to a close race on April 24, but with signs the president could slightly extend his lead.
Protesters across France held several rallies on Saturday amid widespread discontent over an election that resulted in a repeat of the 2017 match between Macron and Le Pen.
In central Paris on Saturday, environmental group Extinction Rebellion launched a three-day protest against what they call France’s inaction on climate issues. Activists said their goal was to “put climate issues back at the center of presidential debate”.
There were also protests against the far right in Paris and other cities, which Le Pen dismissed as undemocratic.
“The establishment is worried,” she told reporters during a campaign stop in southern France. “For people to demonstrate against the election results is deeply undemocratic. I tell all these people to go vote. It’s as simple as that.
A pivotal moment in the final phase of the campaign will come on April 20 when the two meet for their only live debate of the entire campaign broadcast live on French television.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP)