France’s outgoing socialist president has asked the nation to vote for centrist Emmanuel Macron and not far-right Marine Le Pen in the upcoming presidential election runoff.
President Francois Hollande told French voters on Saturday that the onus was on them to safeguard France, as well as Europe, by choosing the pro-European Union (EU) Macron instead of the eurosceptic Le Pen.
“The consequences would be high if France were to turn away from Europe. The choice of the French people is a choice for France but also for the European Union,” he said.
Macron, 39, and Le Pen, 48, won the first round of voting in the presidential election on April 23. Macron finished first on 24 percent, ahead of Le Pen with 21.3 percent. They will now have to contend in the runoff, scheduled for May 7.
“One has to take the ballot paper, the Macron one, and consider it as the ballot that will prevent (the presidency) from the far right,” Hollande said.
Le Pen has said that if she wins, she will pursue a policy of withdrawing France’s membership in the EU. The bloc has already been rattled by Britain’s exit, or Brexit.
Polls show, however, that the En Marche! Movement Leader Macron, who is Hollande’s former economy minister and is said to pursue his same policies, is in the lead.
The views of Le Pen, who heads the Front National (FN) Party, have been broadly described by scholars as extremist and nationalistic.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has voiced her support for Macron. She said on Friday that he would make a “strong” leader for France.
Germany and France are the EU’s two heavyweights and aim to fill the space caused by the Brexit and assume joint leadership of the bloc.