Macron and LePen battling for France’s heart and soul
After ditching France's traditional left-right main political parties in a first-round election, French voters are today choosing between Emmanuel Macron's business-friendly, pro-European vision and Marine Le Pen's protectionist, closed-borders view that resonates with workers left behind by globalisation.
The French presidential campaign has been unusually bitter, with voters hurling eggs and flour, protesters clashing with police and the candidates insulting each other on national television a reflection of the deep divisions and public disaffection with politics.
Le Pen, 48, has brought her far-right National Front party, once a pariah for its racism and anti-Semitism, closer than ever to the French presidency, seizing on working-class voters' growing frustration with globalisation and immigration. Even if she loses, she is likely to be a powerful opposition figure in the upcoming parliamentary election campaign.
"We changed everything," win or lose, Le Pen said in an interview with The Associated Press last Friday.
The 39-year-old Macron, a former economy minister and investment banker who has never held elected office, also helped upend France's traditional political structure with his wild-card campaign outside standard parties.
Many voters, however, don't like either Le Pen or Macron. They fear her party's racist past, while worrying that his platform would demolish job protections for workers. Students in several Paris schools protested last Friday against both candidates.