Le Pen, Macron step up campaigns ahead of presidential 2nd round

Paris, Apr 12 (EFE).- Marine Le Pen on Tuesday promised to offer a “democratic alternative” to French voters as she and incumbent Emmanuel Macron stepped up campaigning ahead of the second round of France’s presidential election on April 24.

At a press conference in Vernon in northern France, the leader of the far-right National Rally pledged to start a “referendary revolution”, calling for a so-called ‘citizen’s initiative referendum’ (RIC, in French), a model of direct democracy – similar to the ones in place in neighboring Italy and Switzerland – in which citizens would be asked to vote by referendum on a range of issues concerning the proposition or repeal of laws, the revocation of politicians’ mandates, and amendments to the constitution.

She also pledged to shift France’s electoral system to one of proportional representation and introduce a single, non-renewable seven-year presidential term, while also appearing to soften her anti-EU stance.

Declaring France’s election system “obsolete”, Le Pen promised that the RIC and other proposals would “revive” the country’s institutions.

Macron, meanwhile, visited the Alsace region in eastern France, to speak on the state of the European Union and his country’s role in the bloc.

Speaking to reporters in Strasbourg, which is home to the headquarters of the European Parliament, the president dismissed Le Pen’s apparent softening of her previously staunchly anti-EU position, accusing her of “talking nonsense”.

“I believe in Europe,” Macron said. “We have changed Europe in the five years that have just passed, and we have achieved things in Europe that have improved the lives of our compatriots – from the vaccine, to the sharing of common expenses – real changes that have allowed us to live over the past five years.

“Le Pen is, as usual, talking nonsense. (…) All it means is that she wants to leave (the EU) but she doesn’t dare say it anymore,” Macron said, adding that she intended to “create a new alliance between countries – with her friends in Poland and Hungary”, which are both governed by right-wing populist governments and have repeatedly clashed with Brussels.

“What a strange club that would be. I don’t think it would be a club that would be good for France, or good for Europe,” Macron said.

His trip to eastern France followed visits to the north on Monday as he targets voters from areas that have suffered from post-industrial decline over the past two decades and where Le Pen has enjoyed support.

France’s political establishment has long been suspicious of Le Pen, and former president Nicoalas Sarkozy on Tuesday urged voters who would traditionally have chosen center-right formation The Republicans to vote for Macron.

“I will vote for Emmanuel Macron because I believe that he has all the necessary experience when it comes to a serious international crisis and one that is more complex than ever,” Sarkozy said in a statement posted on social media.

“He is, in the current state of things, the only one who can act.” EFE


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