‘No choice between right and right’ French voters plan to abstain in Macron V Le Pen vote

Marine Le Pen grills Macron over energy cuts during election debate

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The incumbent president and the far-right leader locked horns in a televised debate last night, clashing on everything from cost of living, Europe, Russia and public health. Mr Macron, who is currently leading the polls, cannot be so sure of his victory as he was back in 2017 when he faced Ms Le Pen for the first time and won with 66.1 percent of the votes.

This time around, his track record speaks volumes for those who feel they have not been left with much of a choice when they head to the polls on Sunday, April 24.

The French President is particularly at risk when it comes to voters who supported left-wing candidate Jean-Luc Melanchon in the first round.

This time around they more likely to abstain than to give a vote to Macron’s centre-right LaRem party.

Speaking to Express.co.uk in Paris, Melanchon voter Faiza, 44, unemployed and originally from Pakistan, said she will rather stay at home on Sunday than give her support to Macron.

As she protested for social housing in Place de la Concorde, she said: “When they speak they speak very well but in practice the reality is different.

“We need social housing, the situation is bad. Le Pen doesn’t want us (foreigners) here, so we don’t really have a choice on Sunday.

“I voted for Melanchon, I’m disheartened. I’m going to abstain on Sunday. Macron can’t be my choice.

“My husband might vote for him but he will not have my vote.”

Philippe, 40, a nurse and also a Melanchon supporter standing next to Faiza said public health in France has become inexistent thanks to Macron.

He said: “Macron closed all the public hospitals.

“All the public hospitals are not performing surgeries. If you don’t have money you’re screwed.

“I also voted for Melanchon in the first round and I’m hoping he will win the legislative elections in June.

“I’m not voting on Sunday. There is no choice between right and right.”

Others, though not prepared to say openly they will support Marine Le Pen on Sunday, were definitely sure they will not give Macron their vote either.

Sat on a bench overlooking La Seine, Pierre-Luc, 68, a pensioner, got fired up when asked about the debate between the two candidates last night.

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He said: “Macron is the worst. He doesn’t care about French people, he only cares for himself.

“Presidents in France are like pigs in a pit, they just care about their food.

“But Macron is something else. He doesn’t listen to working class people.

“He said a big ‘f*** you!’ to fishermen, to farmers, to nurses and doctors, to working class people.

“He’s like the mafia for me. He should be arrested by the police.

“He didn’t care about the Yellow Vests. He has no respect.

“Marine Le Pen listens and speaks for all of these people. She respects them.”

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But he added that Le Pen runs into trouble because she does not know how to speak to France’s Muslims, who make up around five per cent of the population.

As he drove across Paris to the Elysee Palace, taxi driver Franck, 38, appeared to have clearer ideas on who he will support on Sunday.

Asked about the two candidates’ plans on France’s membership of the European Union, he said: “Macron is all Europe, Europe, Europe. France doesn’t mean s*** to him.

“Because all he cares about is his business and he gains business with the EU.

“And when he’s approached by normal people like us, he doesn’t know how to speak to us.

“He’s no good.

“Marine Le Pen doesn’t want Frexit like he says but she wants French products for French people.

“She wants to look after us, she wants to make sure we don’t pay too much for electricity.

“She wants electricity to be nation-sourced, because we have the resources and it’s cheaper like this.

“Watch her on Sunday, she has a chance to become President.”

Indecisiveness will be key in this battle, with plenty of voters left feeling like they do not have a real choice between right and right-wing politics.

Pierre Laurent, 47, a pub owner said there is no difference between Macron and Le Pen.

He said: “I’m not voting on Sunday. I will leave the ballot white.

“There is no point, no choice. Macron and Le pen are the same.”

Taxi driver Josep, 52, echoed: “I’m still undecided on who to vote for but it won’t be Macron. I might not vote at all.

“He has made our life hell. He only cares about people like him with money.”

On Le Pen, he added: “She did well last night and she speaks for working class people like me. But I’m not sure that will be enough.”

Viewers of the only debate between the two final candidates on Wednesday evening deemed a combative Macron arrogant but also found him more convincing and fit to be president, an Elabe poll for BFM TV showed.

Le Pen, who focused on expressing empathy with people she said had “suffered” since Macron was elected in 2017, was judged slightly more in tune with voters’ concerns but her far-right views were still considered much more worrying, the poll showed.

With surveys before the debate showing Macron was ahead in voting intentions for Sunday’s runoff with an estimated 55-56 percent of the votes, that was not good news for Le Pen, who came second to Macron in the 2017 presidential election.

“Did she give the impression she is ready to govern? It’s the only question that matters,” the widely-read Le Parisien said in an editorial on Thursday. “Judging by the debate, she did not dispel that doubt.”

For the conservative Le Figaro, the debate would not have changed voters’ minds.

Macron will be campaigning on Thursday in the Paris suburb of Seine-Saint-Denis – a key target for both candidates which voted heavily for hard left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon in the first round.

Le Pen will head to northern France, with an evening rally in Arras, a town that voted slightly more for Macron in a region that is otherwise a far-right stronghold.

It is unclear if the last two days of campaigning will change any votes.

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