Macron gets the jitters in Le Pen land – POLITICO

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PARIS — Emmanuel Macron is displaying indicators of nerves as he steps up his campaigning forward of the second spherical of the French presidential election.

During a go to to the northern city of Denain on Monday, the French president made missteps and appeared unprepared as he got here up in opposition to sad members of the general public.

With polls suggesting a very tight runoff race between Macron and far-right chief Marine Le Pen, the incumbent is hitting the marketing campaign path with gusto after taking a light-touch strategy forward of the primary spherical.

But his first go to to hostile territory didn’t go effectively.

Denain, one of many poorest cities in France, is a brief drive away from Le Pen’s electoral fiefdom within the rust belt in north-eastern France, the place the National Rally has thrived lately. Some 41 % of voters in Denain selected Le Pen within the election’s first spherical.

Hammered by locals over his administration of the COVID-19 pandemic and his plans to reform the French pension system, Macron appeared misplaced for phrases on the previous and appeared to backtrack on earlier commitments on the latter.

After a girl objected to highschool closures throughout lockdown, Macron clumsily answered that she didn’t stay “in the real world,” including that colleges had been in a short time reopened after the beginning of the pandemic in 2020.

“I don’t live in the real world?” the lady, who works as a dental assistant in Denain, answered, “people will be laughing in front of their TV sets.”

The encounter sums up the difficulties Macron faces as he dives into campaigning, eager to show that he’s in contact with bizarre individuals and giving the impression that he’s frantically attempting to make up for time misplaced.

Macron formally introduced his presidential bid solely final month, and delayed campaigning within the wake of the struggle in Ukraine. When he lastly hit the marketing campaign path, he held just one rally, in Paris, and went on marketing campaign stops in areas held by allies.

Meanwhile, Le Pen began a low-profile tour of France six months in the past, visiting small cities and villages and campaigning on points that have an effect on bizarre French reminiscent of the price of dwelling and jobs.

In the primary spherical of voting on Sunday, Macron completed forward of Le Pen with 27.8 % of the vote, in comparison with 23.1 % for the far-right chief. However, polls are predicting a a lot tighter race than of their final duel in 2017 as many citizens from rural areas and the working lessons are anticipated to swing behind Le Pen on April 24.

With the entire candidates on the left knocked out, Macron and Le Pen are each in search of to win over left-wing voters. Twenty-one % of voters backed far-left chief Jean-Luc Mélenchon within the first spherical and they seem break up between abstaining within the second spherical and backing both Le Pen or Macron.

U-turn on pensions

Things went from dangerous to worse for Macron on Monday. The French president appeared to U-turn on his flagship proposal to lift the authorized age of retirement to 65 and introduce a minimal state pension of €1,100.

In Denain, Macron informed locals that he was open to adjusting the timeframe and the age of retirement in a bid to unite individuals behind his reforms.

“I am ready to change the timeline and say we don’t necessarily have to do the reform by 2030 if I feel that people are too worried about it,” he mentioned.

“I can’t say I want to unite people, and then when I go and listen to people I tell them I’m not budging,” he mentioned, including that there could be concessions for employees in powerful jobs.

But pensions are a centerpiece of Macron’s re-election bid and his hints at compromise appeared to take his camp without warning. An adviser to the French president on Monday informed Playbook Paris that Macron’s feedback weren’t a change of coverage, earlier than backtracking a few hours later. The hints additionally elevate questions on Macron’s long-term dedication to his personal marketing campaign platform.

With Le Pen providing to deliver down the retirement age to 62, Macron is below strain to supply some compromises on pensions, significantly to unskilled employees who usually begin their careers earlier.

On Tuesday, his far-right rival informed French radio France Inter that his concessions had been “a maneuver” to draw left-wing voters.

“I don’t trust Emmanuel Macron at all, not when there are 10 days to go before the second round,” Le Pen informed journalists.

Macron has not denied he’s open to altering his plans for reform within the wake of first-round outcomes. But after selling a pro-business, economically liberal agenda throughout his final mandate, he’ll now should persuade each Le Pen and Mélenchon voters that he has a strong plan for them too.

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