French President Emmanuel Macron has appealed to younger voters in his last scheduled interview before Sunday’s first-round presidential vote. His comments came as rival Marine Le Pen continues to close the gap in the polls. A poll on Friday showed the tightest gap ever, with Le Pen seen winning 49 percent of votes in a likely runoff against the president, her best polling score on record. The poll, published on BFM TV’s website, showed that Macron had lost a further two points at 26 percent support and Le Pen had gained two points to 25 percent.
Mr Macron has become a polarising figure in France since rising to power in 2017.
Some politicians and experts believe that 2022 could be the year his presidency comes to an end.
Manuel Valls, former prime minister, wrote in a column backing Macron in Le Journal last week: “It’s one minute to midnight.
“Marine Le Pen could be elected president of the republic.”
Anne-Laure Delatte, an economics professor at the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) and a supporter of-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon also suggested Mr Macron could lose.
She told the Financial Times this week: “The risk of a Le Pen victory is significantly higher than in 2017 . . . I don’t understand why people are not more afraid.
“What is shocking to me is that many in France seem to be ignoring the risks.”
David Dubois, professor of digital marketing at Insead, also told the newspaper that social media mentions suggested French sentiment about Ms Le Pen was more favourable than for Eric Zemmour, another far right candidate.
In March she had 38 percent negative mentions and 31 percent positive, while Mr Macron had 37 percent negative and 32 percent positive.
He added: “She was able to change her brand image.
“She’s really made an effort to change her discourse from immigration to rising prices and how to increase the purchasing power of French people.”
He said Ms Le Pen was “lying” to voters about her “racist” manifesto programme, which includes banning the Muslim headscarf, and accused her of “complacency” in her ties with Russia’s Vladimir Putin.
On Putin, the French President said: “I’ve never been complacent. Which was not always the case for Marine Le Pen who is financially dependent on Vladimir Putin and his regime and who has always been complacent with him.”
Earlier this week, Mr Macron also told reporters: “You should not be looking at me if you want to find complacency towards Vladimir Putin, or Russian financing.
“You should be looking at the other candidates. Don’t forget that.”