May 23, 2022

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French election live update: Voters choose between Macron and Le Pen

French election live update: Voters choose between Macron and Le Pen

credit…James Hill for The New York Times

HARDECOURT-AUX-BOIS, FRANCE – Marine Le Pen has spent the last two days of her campaign in the economically struggling non-industrial regions of northern France that form her strongholds alongside the expanse of the Mediterranean in the south.

Urging her core supporters to vote on Sunday, Le Pen held events in the Somme province, home to towns and villages where her attacks against her rival, Emmanuel Macron, as an “arrogant” president is fervently filled with “contempt” for ordinary people.

“For me, Emmanuel Macron is the president who has made the rich get richer,” said Gaetin Francois, 40, a construction tractor operator and member of the village council, outside City Hall in Hardecourt-aux-Bois. “Marine Le Pen is the only one standing up for the workers.”

at Hardecourt-aux-Bois, a village of 85 people on the Somme, only three people voted for Macron in the first round earlier this month. Ms. Le Pen received 78 percent of the vote, her highest score nationally.

The village, like the rest of the area, has drifted to the right in the past decade.

Maurice Kleiman, 82, a retired truck driver, said he’s voted for Socialists most of his life. In 2017, he voted for Ms Le Pen in the first round, but for Mr Macron in the run-off because he was concerned about the far right.

This time, he had no such fears. He said Macron’s policies have plunged France into a “hole,” citing record government debt that has accumulated during his presidency. He was furious at Mr Macron’s proposal to raise the retirement age to 65 from 62 as part of his plans to reform the pension system. For those who have done hard manual labor their whole lives, he said, retiring at 65 was like retiring on “crutches.”

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“It is the only option,” said Mrs. Le Pen.

About 24 miles away, Hamm, a town of about 5,000 people, has also moved to the right in recent years. In the 2012 presidential election, the people of Hamm voted like the rest of the nation by choosing François Hollande, the Socialist Party’s candidate, over Nicolas Sarkozy of the centre-right.

But in 2017, Hamm chose Ms. Le Pen over Mr. Macron. Ms. Le Pen won 56 percent of the vote in Hamm, compared to just 34 percent nationally.

On Sunday, Le Pen was expected to easily defeat Mr Macron at Hamm again. In the first round of voting two weeks ago, she received 41 percent of the vote, while Macron received only 24 percent.

Far from Ms Le Pen’s focus on the working class, her stern talk of crime and immigration has long drawn voters like Hubert Beckert, 68, a retired optician.

“I’m tired of using taxpayer money to house terrorists in prison,” he said, adding that he wants the death penalty back. Marine Le Pen is the only one who gets tough on crime.