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France’s Macron unveils priorities as race tightens

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French presidential election candidate for the En Marche ! movement Emmanuel Macron gestures at the end of a speech during a campaign meeting in Furiani, on the French Mediterranean island of Corsica, on April 7, 2017. PASCAL POCHARD-CASABIANCA / AFP

French presidential frontrunner Emmanuel Macron detailed his priorities Sunday for his first few months in office if elected, as polls showed the unpredictable race tightening just two weeks before voting.

Macron, 39, told the Journal de Dimanche newspaper one of his first measures would be to pass a law setting new ethical standards for parliament, followed by related legislation that will cut the number of MPs by a third.

He also foresees a visit to Berlin and a tour of European capitals to drum up support for his plan to deepen economic integration in the eurozone, create a European border force and put in place greater protections for European industry.

Asked about a slight fall in support according to recent surveys, the independent centrist replied: “They show exactly what I feel: that nothing is decided yet. We are entering a crucial phase.”

Elsewhere on Sunday, his main rivals far-right leader Marine Le Pen and scandal-hit rightwinger Francois Fillon were seeking to persuade the roughly 30 percent of voters who are yet to make their minds up.

Analysts say the widely-watched election remains extremely unpredictable after a rollercoaster campaign.

Fillon will hold what could be one of his largest rallies so far in southern Paris later in the afternoon, with the defiant ex-prime minister convinced he can still win despite a series of damaging revelations about his finances.

“Everything that doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” he told a cheering crowd in Clermont-Ferrand in central France on Friday.

Le Pen and her closest allies will hit the airwaves in a series of interviews intended to sway voters tempted by her vision of a nationalist France, unburdened by the European Union and the euro currency.

The latest poll published late on Saturday confirmed shifting momentum seen earlier this week following a second and final televised debate between the 11 candidates vying to be France’s next leader.

Le Pen and Macron — dubbed the “fragile favourite” by the Journal de Dimanche — are neck-and neck but both have lost ground slightly and would win 23 percent if the vote were held today.

This would mean they both qualified for the second round run-off scheduled on May 7 which Macron is seen winning comfortably.

But behind them, Communist-backed firebrand Jean-Luc Melenchon continues to surge after strong performances during the debates when he repeatedly tackled Le Pen over her hardline views on immigration and Islam.

The often witty leftwinger, an admirer of late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez and staunch critic of the European Union, is seen winning 19 percent of votes, up four points over a week, which puts him at the same level of support as Fillon.

The survey of 1,421 people was carried out online at the end of last week by the BVA Salesforce polling group.


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