Voters in France go to the polls today for the first round of voting in the French election. Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen are the frontrunners among the 12 candidates to win through to the second round in two weeks but opinion polls have suggested the race will be close. In recent weeks the radical left’s Jean-Luc Mélenchon has closed the gap with the two frontrunners, and pollsters say the level of abstention is likely to play a major role in the eventual result. Some analysts have suggested up to a third of voters could shun the ballot, the highest number in 20 years.
Earlier this week, one poll suggested that Mr Macron would only win a head to head with Ms Le Pen by two percentage points.
The French President has divided opinion in recent years, and one journalist who wrote a book about Mr Macron branded him a president of “contempt and arrogance”.
Nicolas Domenach, who wrote a book on the president entitled Macron: Why So Much Hatred?’ said: “Not only did we have a ‘president of the rich’, but a president of contempt and arrogance.
“It cut through. It was like he was branded with it, with hot iron.”
Mr Domenach made the comments while discussing one infamous occasion when Mr Macron told an unemployed gardener that he could “cross the road and get you a job”.
The incident happened in 2018 – in a video Mr Macron was seen talking with the young man during a public open house at the Elysee Palace.
The gardener told the president: “I’m 25 years old, I send resumes and cover letters, they don’t lead to anything.
Mr Macron replied: “If you’re willing and motivated, in hotels, cafes and restaurants, construction, there’s not a single place I go where they don’t say they’re looking for people. Not one – it’s true!
“If I crossed the street I’d find you one.”
At the time, Christophe Castaner, the head of Macron’s Republic on the Move party, rejected accusations that Macron had “poorly treated the unemployed”.
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As France goes to the polls, Ms Le Pen has been boosted by a shock poll that showed the majority of young people would back her against Emmanuel Macron as France votes today in the first round of its presidential election.
A YouGov survey conducted over the last week showed 56 per cent of those aged between 18 and 24 would vote for the nationalist candidate in a run-off.
Other polls project Ms Le Pen taking 47 per cent of the vote to Mr Macron’s 53 among the general population, a far closer gap than when he beat her comfortably in the election five years ago.