Emmanuel Macron, who is running for another term as French president, fought Jean-Denis Nzaramba, a local amateur boxer, during a stop in Saint-Denis near Paris on Thursday.
PARIS – During a visit to Saint-Denis north of Paris last week, where the poverty rate is about twice the national average, President Emmanuel Macron put on boxing gloves for a while so he could compete with the locals. “Go on, hit me,” said the young man, “show me what you have!”
It was a pause in a long campaign during which Mr Macron, scattered by his barren Russian diplomacy, largely ignored parts of France affected by high immigration, unemployment and hardship – and seldom expressed real concern about the growing economic difficulties. brought inflation and gas prices.
Marine Le Pen, an far-right candidate who brought her anti-immigrant movement closer to power than at any time in the history of the Fifth Republic, focused on these issues with significant effect. The battle between Le Pen and Macron will culminate on Sunday when the French elect their president for a five-year term.
Whatever the outcome, the election will have profound consequences far beyond France as the United States and its European allies find themselves in a precarious dispute with Russia over its war in Ukraine.
Mr Macron tried to engage Russian President Vladimir V. Putin, but was a reliable part of a united front against the Kremlin. The victory of Mrs Le Pen, who has long sympathized with Moscow and owed millions to a Russian bank, would undoubtedly be Mr Putin’s victory and provide him with his most important ally in his efforts to weaken the European Union and divide NATO.
A poll by Ipsos and Sofra Steria for Le Monde, published just before the official campaign shutdown on Friday, showed that Macron is leading with 56.5 percent of the vote ahead of Ms. Le Pen’s 43.5 percent. Within two weeks of the first round of voting on April 10, it seems to have widened its lead, perhaps decisively.
Polling station on Sunday in Paris during the second round of the French presidential election. Credit … Dmitry Kostyukov for The New York Times
The likelihood of a high turnout and the reluctance of many of the 7.7 million people who voted for Jean-Luc Mélenchon, a tight-lipped hard-line candidate, to change their vote to Mr Macron still left uncertainty. result.
Mr Mélenchon said “not a single vote” for Mrs Le Pen; however, he did not support Mr Macron, who moved directly during his presidency and whose reserved assurances are often perceived as arrogance.
The first round of voting showed France gutting center-left and center-right parties, which were the main drivers of its post-war policy. It split into three blocks: the hard left, the amorphous center gathered around Mr. Macron, and the far right of Marine Le Pen.
The transformation, which included a quieter tone and a lot of smiles, helped to soften Mrs. Le Pen’s image, but if the packaging is different, the content does not.
He wants to ban headscarves that are widely worn by Muslim women; revise the constitution by referendum in order to establish the idea of national preferences for access to employment and social housing; to limit child allowances to French nationals; and deport undocumented migrants. He regularly associates Islam with violence in the country with the largest Muslim population in Western Europe.
She is unlikely to win, but now she is in a zone of potential surprise, Mrs. Le Pen is no longer a remote. It’s the new French normal. If Mr Macron succeeds, as polls suggest, he will face a troubled, divided country where hatred of him is not uncommon. The old notion that France is unmanageable may soon be retested.