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Published: Fri, May 05, 2017
Economy | By Melissa Porter

French presidential contenders stage rival rallies on May Day


Standing Monday on the same bridge, Macron hugged Bourram's son Said, who was 9 when his father was killed. Macron joined the man's son and anti-National Front protesters at an annual commemoration near the Louvre Museum. Anti-immigrant chants rose in the crowd of thousands for Ms Le Pen's rally.

On Wednesday, another embarrassing moment saw Macron being insulted by workers from Whirpool, a domestic appliance factory in Amiens, northwest of Paris, right after Marine Le Pen enjoyed a much warmer welcome on the industrial site.

Mr Macron, an independent who leads his far-right rival Marine Le Pen by around 20 percentage points in the polls, is a pro-EU centrist.

The tense campaign interrupted the usual calm of the May Day holiday, as supporters of both candidates took to the streets, airwaves and social networks to weigh in on an election closely watched by global financial markets and France's neighbours as a test of the global populist wave. With less of a quarter of the popular vote tallied, many found the candidate arrogant for taking his election for granted thanks to the probable anti-National Front vote that would turn in his favor in the second round. Le Pen also reached a highly symbolic alliance with the eurosceptic leader of a center-right party, Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, who encouraged the 5 percent of people who supported him on Sunday to vote for Le Pen.

"It's obvious that exiting the euro takes time, it might be a bit slower but she will do it, it's in her programme", Sylvain Laour, a 50 year old security officer, said as Le Pen held her last major rally before Sunday's run-off vote, in the northern Paris suburb of Villepinte. Instead, she is holding a rally in an exhibition center north of Paris. At the 1995 event, a group of skinheads broke away and pushed 29-year-old Brahim Bourram off a bridge into the Seine, where he drowned.

Le Pen's efforts to clean up the racism and anti-Semitism that has stained her anti-immigration National Front party's past may be undermined by a parallel Paris event by her father, Jean-Marie, expelled from the party over his extreme views.

Le Pen, 88, said in his speech that "she is not Joan of Arc, but she accepts the same mission..."

Polls consider Macron the front-runner in the runoff but the race has been exceptionally unpredictable.

Also Monday, trade unions will stage traditional May Day demos and marches across the country, most calling for a "republican vote" to block Le Pen.

Ms Le Pen was endorsed by her father, while Mr Macron held an emotional meeting with a Moroccan man whose father died years ago when he was thrown off a Paris bridge by far-right skinheads.

French far-right candidate Marine Le Pen says that if she is elected president, she would spend 6 to 8 months negotiating with the European Union on dropping the shared euro currency and returning to the French franc.

Macron faces Le Pen's daughter Marine, who took over the party, in Sunday's runoff.

"I've always been against the European Union", said Lydie, who like her husband is a civil servant and wants France to leave the EU.

Referring to Mr Macron's period as a minister in President Hollande's government, she accused him of being a "candidate of continuity... littered with the corpses of jobs transferred off-shore, the ruins of bust businesses, and the gaping holes of deficit and debt".

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