Macron boasts of having “spirit of conquest” on the eve of French elections

PARIS (AP) — President Emmanuel Macron said on Friday he was not afraid of losing France’s presidential election, despite populist rival Marie Le Pen narrowing the gap in opinion polls ahead of Sunday’s first-round vote.

“I have more of a conquering spirit than a defeating spirit,” said Macron on the last day of the election campaign in an RTL radio interview. But he added cautiously, “Nothing is ever given.”

Le Pen, in her third run for the presidency, has consistently ranked second in polls behind leader Macron. It appeared to close the gap even further, according to a released BVA poll, which shows it is just 3 percent behind Macron’s 26 percent. Other polls found a 5-6 point difference between the two.

If the polls reflect the election results, Macron and Le Pen would repeat the 2017 scenario and face off in a second round on April 24. Macron won in a landslide five years ago.

Le Pen has expended much energy to tone down her National Rallye party in order to make it more attractive to voters. She has softened her image even further and made purchasing power the centerpiece of her campaign, but she has not given up on what she is best known for – stopping “migration subversion” and fighting radical Islamists.

“If Emmanuel Macron had enriched the country, sorry, but we wouldn’t be talking about purchasing power,” Le Pen said at her closing rally Thursday night in the city of Perpignan, whose right-wing mayor is her former companion Louis Aliot.

Macron cited his duties as president, particularly the war in Ukraine, to justify his absence for much of the campaign, which drew criticism from other candidates.

Turnout could be the deciding factor in the election and the most damaging to Le Pen’s chances, as its electoral base is made up of voters who tend to stay home on election day.

In Perpignan, Le Pen tried to rally supporters, including those considering casting their ballot for new right-wing populist candidate Eric Zemmour, a former TV pundit whose candidacy for the presidency is largely based on the migration issue. He is fourth in the polls behind left winger Jean-Luc Melenchon.

“I will give the country back to the French,” Le Pen said. “It will be up to the French people to decide who is worthy of becoming French.”

She also appealed to supporters to cast their votes.

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