‘Why Le Pen will win’ Macron issued dire warning as vote breakdown exposes worrying trend

Macron’s ally launches scathing attack on Marine Le Pen

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Mr Macron and Ms Le Pen came out on top in the first-round vote on Sunday, setting up a repeat of the 2017 runoff between the pro-European economic liberal and his euro-sceptic nationalist rival. Left-wing voters will be crucial to determining the outcome of the cliff-hanger election.

Former Sunday Times editor Andrew Neil provided his Twitter followers with a breakdown of the first round vote, tweeting about the high percentage of votes for anti-establishment parties: “With 97% votes counted Macron is on 27.6%, Le Pen on 23,4%, Melenchon on 22%, Zemmour on 7%.

“So over 50% of France voted non-mainstream left and right. Add in a few others on extremes eg Communists and it’s over 55%”.

To which fellow Twitter user Alex Balfour replied: “That’s precisely why Le Pen will win”.

Ms Le Pen clawed her way back from Mr Macron’s once-commanding 10-point poll lead thanks to a campaign focused on cost-of-living issues.

She said she was the one to protect the weak and unite a nation tired of its elite, telling supporters: “What will be at stake on April 24 is a choice of society, a choice of civilisation. I will bring order back to France.”

Ifop pollsters have predicted a very tight runoff, with 51 percent for Mr Macron and 49 percent for Le Pen. However, the gap is so tight victory either way is within the margin of error.

Other pollsters offered a slightly bigger margin in favour of Mr Macron, with up to 54 percent. But that was much narrower than in 2017, when Mr Macron beat Ms Le Pen with 66.1 percent of the votes.

Alain Duhamel, a political analyst who has followed every French election since 1965, said in translated comments: “The first lesson is that the anti-system parties now represent at least half of the French, which has never happened before.

“The second is that never has the far-right been so strong. For the first time in the history of all the French republics, not just the fifth republic, it is possible for the far right to win this election.”

Mr Macron took his hunt for more re-election support to France’s former industrial heartland in the north on Monday, a blue-collar stronghold of his far-right rival.

Analysts say that a win by Ms Le Pen would send shockwaves across Europe and beyond, delivering a similar jolt to the establishment as Brexit and Donald Trump’s 2017 entry into the White House.

Left-wing voters will be crucial to determining the outcome of the election.

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Hard-left veteran Jean-Luc Melenchon, who came a close third on Sunday, told supporters not one single vote should go to the far right. However, he stopped short of endorsing Mr Macron.

Mr Macron has taken aim at the financing of Ms Le Pen’s economic agenda, which would see the retirement age cut to 60 for those who start work before 20; income tax scrapped for under-30s and VAT on energy slashed from 20 percent to 5.5 percent.

Ms Le Pen has brought the image of her far-right party closer to the mainstream at a time when France has also lurched to the right in the wake of Islamist attacks.

However, her less combative manner belies a hard-line, anti-immigrant programme.

It has been her focus on the cost-of-living issues troubling millions and her ability to connect with people that has proved particularly popular.

The Economist’s Paris bureau chief, Sophie Pedder, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that Mr Macron was a victim of his own success.

She said: “What I think has happened is he’s been in way a victim of his own success. He’s created this extraordinarily broad church, this centrist movement. You can see it. There are former socialists in government, former republicans from the centre-right in the finance ministry.

“There are characters that people now, I think, start to forget where they originally came from such has been this new branding of the En Marche, centrist, political family.

“But the flip side of that has been the resilience of the extremes and we’ve seen that in the vote last night. It’s really quite extraordinary.”

She explained that extreme votes from both ends of the political spectrum add up to close to 57 percent of the vote.

Ms Pedder said: “It’s a worrying, and it’s an astonishing outcome – it’s perhaps the darker side to what Emmanuel Macron represented and what he brought about in 2017.”

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