This content is not available in your region

Macron debates angry voters as campaign intensifies ahead of runoff

Access to the comments Comments
By Euronews  with AFP
Emmanuel Macron speaks with supporters and medical staff in Mulhouse eastern France, Tuesday, 12 April 2022
Emmanuel Macron speaks with supporters and medical staff in Mulhouse eastern France, Tuesday, 12 April 2022   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias

French President Emmanuel Macron has entered the final two weeks of the election campaign and faces a tough battle for reelection against far-right candidate Marine Le Pen.

The president and candidate entered the campaign late before the first round of the election due to the war in Ukraine, holding just one large campaign rally, but now is travelling to rural areas of France and engaging in debates with angry voters.

In the eastern city of Mulhouse, where far-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon came first in the election, Macron faced healthcare workers who urged him to add more beds and "improve our working conditions".

"Mr Macron, young people don't want to work 7 days a week at a salary that is not decent," said one care worker.

Another worker said that they don't feel that pay has gone up, adding that he should give caseworkers the means to treat people.

In Denain, northern France, where Marine Le Pen won 41% of the vote in Sunday's first round, Macron faced voters' tough questions about the COVID-19 pandemic and inflation.

A dental assistant pressed the president on gasoline prices and his words that he wanted to "piss off" the unvaccinated.

Macron stumbled a bit in the conversation, telling the woman that she didn't live in the "real world" as she criticised the closure of schools in the country's first lockdown.

He faced voter questions about retirement as well, adding that he was willing to evolve on his programme.

Macron has proposed to raise the retirement age from 62 to 65, which he says is needed in the country financially. He said it may be possible to raise the retirement age to 64 by starting the reform earlier, back-tracking a bit on his proposal.

The last time Macron tried to reform France's retirement system, he faced large protests and transport strikes leading him to eventually table the project as he focused on the COVID-19 pandemic.

Both second-round presidential candidates Macron and Le Pen will want to try to convince those who voted for Jean-Luc Mélenchon in the first round to support them in the runoff. Mélenchon came third in the presidential election, with around 21%.

While Mélenchon urged voters not to support Marine Le Pen, he did not tell them to vote for Macron.