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Politics

Macron Confident as Far-Right Rival Closes in Ahead of Vote

PARIS — President Emmanuel Macron said Friday he has no fear of losing France’s presidential election despite far-right rival Marie Le Pen narrowing the gap in opinion polls ahead of Sunday’s first-round vote.

“I have the spirit of conquest rather than the spirit of defeat,” Macron said in an interview with RTL radio on the final day of campaigning. But he cautiously added, “Nothing is ever a given.”

Le Pen, running in her third presidential race, has consistently placed second behind frontrunner Macron in polls. She appeared to close the gap even further according to a BVA poll published showing her just 3% behind Macron’s 26%. Other polls have given a 5-6 point difference between the two.

If the polls mirror election results, Macron and Le Pen would repeat the 2017 scenario, squaring off in a second round Apr. 24. Macron won by a landslide five years ago.

Le Pen has expended much energy to take the edge off her National Rally party in order to make it more appealing to voters. She has softened her image even more and made purchasing power the centerpiece of her campaign, but hasn’t given up what she’s best known for – stopping the “migratory submersion” and fighting radical Islamists.

“If Emmanuel Macron had enriched the country, excuse me but we wouldn’t be talking about purchasing power,” Le Pen said at her final rally Thursday evening in the town of Perpignan whose far-right mayor is her former companion Louis Aliot.

Macron cited his presidential duties, notably the war in Ukraine, to justify his absence during much of the campaign, which has been criticized by other candidates.

Turnout could be the deciding factor in the the election and could harm Le Pen’s chances most because her voter base is composed of voters who tend to stay at home on election day.

In Perpignan, Le Pen sought to rally supporters including those mulling to cast their vote for novice far-right candidate Eric Zemmour, a former TV pundit whose bid for the presidency is based entirely on the migration issue. He stands in fourth place in the polls, behind far-left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon.

“I will give the country back to the French people,” Le Pen said. “It will be up to the French people to decide who is worthy of becoming French.”

She also appealed to supporters to cast their ballots.

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