French President warned of the risk of a Brexit-style election upset in his only campaign rally before the first round of the presidential election, in a bid to convince dispirited voters and re-energise a lacklustre campaign. Less than a week before the April 10 vote, Macron found himself on the defensive, with far-right leader Marine Le Pen staging a comeback in the polls and the race tightening between the two frontrunners for the crucial April 24 runoff.
“Look at what happened with Brexit, and so many other elections: what looked improbable actually happened,” Macron told a crowd of flag-waving supporters.
“Nothing is impossible.”
And appearing to link Brexit to Le Pen’s campaign Macron added: “The danger of extremism has reached new heights because, in recent months and years, hatred, alternative truths have been normalised.
“We have got used to see on TV shows antisemitic and racist authors.”
Although he is still projected to win a second mandate, Macron has lost ground in the polls, a dip that some aides attribute to a manifesto that includes tough, conservative measures such as raising the state pension age to 65.
Others have also criticised a campaign that started late and lacked “magic”.
After a rockstar-like entry on to the stage of a 35,000-seat stadium outside Paris, Macron started his two-hour speech with a long list of accomplishments and promises to create jobs in hospitals and nursing homes, in a clear attempt to convince centre-left voters that pollsters say could abstain.
“Our lives, their lives, are worth more than profits,” he told the crowd, stealing a well-known anti-capitalist slogan.
“That’s not true,” he added.
The rally of about 30,000 supporters – almost reaching the venue’s full capacity – was attended by former left-wing and right-wing prime ministers and other party grandees.
Insiders claim the incumbent president is “very concerned” about the possibility of Marine Le Pen winning the election, presuming she will be the candidate facing Macron at the second round.
Europe Director of the Eurasia Group, Mujtaba Rahman, wrote: “Lots of concern I the Emmanuel Macron camp about Le Pen winning the French Presidential elections.”
A latest poll by The Economist, however, still gives Macron an 84 percent probability of winning the elections on April 24.