French president Emmanuel Macron has pointed to Brexit and the election of Donald Trump in an eleventh-hour bid for support as pollsters warn of a record-breaking number of people choosing not to cast their vote in Sunday’s presidential run-off.
The incumbent centrist is currently in pole position to win Sunday’s vote, but Macron’s lead over his far-right component Marine Le Pen could be toppled by hesitant voters who decide to stay home.
All opinion polls in recent days point toward a Macron victory – the latest showing that the 44-year-old pro-European is on course to win with 55 per cent of the vote.
But polls have also revealed that just 61 per cent of registered voters are “completely sure” to vote in the second round of the presidential election this weekend, which – coupled with warnings of a possibly record-high number of people who either vote blank or stay at home and don’t vote at all – poses a threat to Macron’s uncertain margin over his nationalist rival.
In an attempt to drum up last-minute votes, Macron warned that his current polling lead was no guarantee of his return to the Élysée Palace – comparing France’s choice to that of US voters before they elected Donald Trump to the White House and to the UK electorate before the 2016 Brexit referendum.
Addressing voters from the picturesque medieval village Figeac, which set the stage for his final day of campaigning, Macron said: “Think about what British citizens were saying a few hours before Brexit or (people) in the United States before Trump’s election happened: ‘I’m not going, what’s the point?’ I can tell you that they regretted it the next day.”
“The next day they woke up with a hangover,” Macron told BFM TV on Friday
Le Pen, speaking from Pas-de-Calais in northern France, similarly called for voters to turn out and counfound the forecasts, saying: “Polls aren’t what decide an election.”
The choice has been particularly dispiriting for left-wing voters who dislike Macron but also fear a Le Pen victory. Macron’s re-election relies in part on their mobilisation, which has seen him issue multiple appeals to leftist voters in recent days.
In spite of his blanket poll-lead, the French leader said he is taking nothing for granted as he addressed a crowd in a working class Paris suburb.
“Nothing is final until the last minute,” he told a crowd in the Saint Denis banlieue, where much of the population has a “sans-papiers” status.
He said he chose to make one of his last campaign stops in a place that “is facing many difficulties” in the poorest region of mainland France, the Seine-Saint-Denis, where many residents are immigrants or have immigrant roots.
Warning against his opponent Marine Le Pen, who he is facing for the second time running in a head-to-head presidential election, Mr Macron said: “We must not get used to the rise of far-right ideas”.
Macron later argued that the loan Le Pen’s party received in 2014 from a Czech-Russian bank made her unsuitable to deal with Moscow amid its invasion of Ukraine.
He also said her plans to ban Muslim women in France from wearing headscarves in public would trigger “civil war” in the country that has the largest Muslim population in Western Europe.“When someone explains to you that Islam equals Islamism equals terrorism equals a problem, that is clearly called the far-right,” he told France Inter radio.
Meanwhile, Le Pen cast aspersions on her opponent’s “calamitous” presidency in her last rally in the northern town of Arras.
“I’m not even mentioning immigration or security for which, I believe, every French person can only note the failure of Macron‘s policies … his economic record is also catastrophic,” she said.
France’s electorate goes to the polls on Sunday 24 April to decide who will be the next president.
An exit poll is expected to be published at 7pm GMT on Sunday with the official final results announced the following day.