France President Emmanuel Macron is firing up his campaign for re-election, directly taking on far-right rival Marine Le Pen in France’s presidential run-off.
He made his first trip to a Le Pen stronghold at Denain, one of France’s poorest towns in the industrial north.
Macron won the first round of the election, but opinion polls suggest the second round will be a close race on April 24.
“Make no mistake: nothing is decided,” he told supporters after the vote.
Both candidates polled better than the first round in 2017, but Le Pen officials were in more buoyant mood the morning after the result, even though she trailed the president by four points.
Jordan Benalla, president of her National Rally party, was confident Le Pen would find willing support from the 70% of people who voted against Macron.
“They know if he gets back in, it’s going to be five more years of social breakdown, fiscal bloodletting, powerlessness over their sovereignty, violence throughout the country and immigration,” he told French radio.
The president acknowledged he had left campaigning too late. He chose to focus instead on Russia’s war in Ukraine, partly in the belief that his role as a statesman would boost his poll numbers.
Meanwhile, the Le Pen team concentrated on the cost-of-living crunch affecting much of the French population.
“Clearly we’re not listening enough to the 38 million French people who earn less than €2,000 a month,” said Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin.
With that in mind, Macron headed to the northern towns of Denain, Carvin, and Lens, where the National Rally candidate came out on top.