Macron is leading in the polls, but turnout is a big issue in the French vote

PARIS (AP) – President Emmanuel Macron is a clear favorite in the French presidential race, but a big unknown factor may be decisive: an unprecedented number of people say they are not sure who to vote for or do not intend to vote at all. resulting in a great deal of uncertainty in the election.

The pro-European centrist is still comfortably in the lead over 11 other candidates in polls ahead of Sunday’s first round of voting. His main rival, far-right leader Marine Le Pen, has been growing in recent days. Both are in a good position to advance to the second round on April 24, forcing them to repeat the 2017 election, which Macron easily won.

“There is no certainty,” Macron warned during his first big rally on Saturday near Paris.

“Do not believe the polls or commentators who will speak out and say that … the election is over, that everything will be fine,” he told his supporters. “From Brexit to so many elections, what seems unlikely can happen!”

Scenarios for this year’s second round of voting show that Le Pen has significantly reduced the gap with Macron compared to 2017 – when she lost with 34% support to his 66%.

Polls still put her behind Macron, but much closer, clearly showing the wisdom of her long-standing strategy to soften her rhetoric and image – allowing her to get a vote against Macron as well as supporting the far right.

In recent days, Macron’s campaign has also reached a speed dubbed the “McKinsey case,” named after an American consulting firm hired to advise the French government on the COVID-19 vaccination campaign and other politicians. A new French Senate report questions the government’s use of private advisers and accuses McKinsey of tax evasion. The financial prosecutor’s office announced on Wednesday that a preliminary investigation has been launched on suspicion of tax fraud.

The issue activates Macron’s competitors and chase him at company stops.

Many in Macron’s camp fear that his supporters may not come to the polls because they already think he will win, and those who are angry at his policies will definitely vote.

“Of course I have concerns,” said Julien Decamp, a 28-year-old member of Macron’s party, stressing that some people around him “don’t know what to do.”

“They are not completely convinced by Macron, but if they reject the extremes, they must vote for him,” he said.

Macron called on voters to mobilize against both the far right and the far left in France. “Don’t whistle them, fight their ideas,” he said.

In third place, according to opinion polls, is the far-left figure Jean-Luc Melanchon, who has increased support but still lags behind Le Pen. Another far-right candidate, Eric Zemmour, and Conservative Valery Pecres are among other key contenders. Sunday’s first round qualifies the two main candidates for the second round.

The presidential election attracts the most French voters.

However, turnout fell from 84% in 2007 to around 78% in 2017, and studies show that abstinence may be higher than five years ago. In particular, young people and working-class people seem less confident of going to the polls than retirees and upper-class voters.

Low turnout could have a serious impact on voting, polls say. They note that most people do not yet know who they will vote for – and whether they will vote at all.

Such is the situation with the assistant head Lisa Garnier, 45, who lives in the affluent suburb of Montmorency, north of Paris.

“I no longer believe what politicians say. They promise a lot, say the words of the candidates, and when we are in power, we are disappointed, ”she said. “I have the impression that more and more people think it is useless: for whom to vote? For what? ”

Garnier believes that politicians are too far from the reality of French everyday life. She said she can just choose an empty vote, even in the second round, if Macron will oppose Le Pen.

“I want to show that I’m not happy about it,” she said.

Declining purchasing power of French families is a major challenge for voters amid rising food and energy prices, as well as social benefits, security, immigration and the environment. But many believe that in this year’s campaign, these issues have not been addressed to the extent necessary, in part because the war in Ukraine obscures all other issues.

Kevin, a 26-year-old history and geography teacher at a public high school who worked in a poor suburb north of Paris, regrets the lack of political debate in the campaign. Describing himself as “left-wing”, he said he felt “very disappointed” by the current French political scene.

Kevin, who cannot be identified by last name because state staff must be neutral before the election, said he is still hesitant. But in any case, he will not vote for either Macron or Le Pen, and considers the vote an empty option.

Macron, who has recently devoted most of his time to diplomatic talks trying to end the war in Ukraine, seeks to launch its brief election campaign ahead of Sunday’s vote, giving several interviews to French media and almost every day including campaign activities on its agenda.

“Friends, you understand: it is time to mobilize. It’s time to fight, “he told his supporters on Saturday.

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Follow the coverage of the French elections from the AP at https://apnews.com/hub/french-election-2022

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