Macron warns of upheaval Brexit-style elections at mass campaign rally

PARIS, April 2 (Reuters) – French President Emmanuel Macron warned of the risk of an upset Brexit-style election at his only campaign rally before the first round of the presidential election, aiming to convince discouraged voters and reinvigorate a lackluster campaign.

About a week before the April 10 vote, Macron finds himself on the defensive, with far-right leader Marine Le Pen returning to the polls and the race tightening between the two favorites for the crucial April 24 run-off. Read more

“Look at what happened with Brexit and so many other elections: what seemed unlikely actually happened,” Macron told a crowd of flag-waving supporters. “Nothing is impossible.”

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“The danger of extremism has reached new heights as in recent months and years hatred, alternative truths have been normalized,” he said. “We have become accustomed to seeing anti-Semitic and racist authors on television.”

Although still set to win a second term, Macron has lost ground in the polls, a drop some aides attribute to a manifesto that includes tough, conservative measures such as raising the retirement age to 65 years.

Others also criticized a campaign launched late and lacking in “magic”. Read more

After a rockstar entrance to the stage at a 35,000-seat stadium outside Paris, Macron began his two-hour speech with a long list of achievements and promises to create jobs in hospitals and nursing homes, in a clear attempt to win over center-left voters who pollsters predicted might abstain.

“Our lives, their lives, are worth more than profits,” he told the crowd, stealing a well-known anti-capitalist slogan. He also called for a round of applause for teachers and nurses.

However, he stuck to his reformist platform, saying the French will have to work longer to pay for these measures, as he refused to raise taxes and add to a public debt that swelled to 102% of GDP during the war. pandemic.

“I don’t hide the fact that we will have to work harder,” Macron said, attacking suitors such as Le Pen and far-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon who have promised to lower the retirement age to 60. years.

“Don’t believe those who say they will lower the retirement age to 60 or 62 and everything will be fine. It’s not true,” he added.

The gathering of around 30,000 supporters – almost reaching the site’s full capacity – included former prime ministers from left and right and other party bigwigs. Still, a supporter interviewed by Reuters found the speech disappointing.

“It’s a speech that shows he wants to explain what he’s going to do, but it lacks inspiration,” said Martin Rochepeau, a 22-year-old student.

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Reporting by Michel Rose; Additional reporting by Elizabeth Pineau; Editing by David Holmes

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