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Emmanuel Macron scrambles to keep control as he challenges Marine le Pen to 'duel'

Emmanuel Macron is reportedly mulling a “duel” with Marine le Pen amid fears her right-wing party will beat the French president’s list in the European elections.

Polls predict Ms le Pen’s Rassemblement National (RN) could secure 31 percent of the vote compared to 17 percent for the list led by Valérie Hayer from the Macronist Renaissance party and its allies.

Ms le Pen, who ran against Mr Macron at presidential elections in 2017 and 2022, has reportedly agreed to a televised debate with the French president.

Mr Macron has been encouraged by supporters to face his right-wing rival, according to reports in the French press.

Commentators say such a debate would give Mr Macron an opportunity to expose weaknesses in RN’s populist messages, though it has also been said the gamble risks being seen as a desperate attempt to change Renaissance’s fortunes.

French prime minister Gabriel Attal and head of RN’s list, Jordan Bardella, are already set for a debate on May 23, according to La Vanguardia.

Opinion polls show Mr Bardella commanding a strong lead of 31-32 percent of voting intentions, ahead of Renaissance list leader Ms Hayer on 16-17 percent.

RN has sought to turn the European elections, which take place from June 6-9, into a referendum on Mr Macron’s presidency.

If RN secures a resounding victory at those elections, then Mr Macron would see his position weakened for the rest of his second term, which ends in May 2027.

His supporters no longer dominate France’s National Assembly. French media has speculated for some time now that elections could be called in September, following the Paris Olympics.

Meanwhile, centre-left MEP Raphaël Glucksmann appears to be making further progress, according to the latest Ifop-Fiducial daily poll for Le Figaro, LCI, and Sud Radio, published on Monday (May 13).

A member of the Socialists and Democrats group in the EU Parliament, Mr Glucksmann’s PS-Place Publique list has risen half a percentage point to 14 percent.

The rise of PS in the polls risks knocking Renaissance and its allies into third place. Mr Glucksmann shares many of Mr Macron’s positions, including support for Ukraine and increased EU integration.

Some analysts suggest if Mr Glucksmann continues to rise in the polls, left-wing voters could back him over the Macronists.


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