Marine Le Pen hijacks Emmanuel Macron campaign visit to factory

Violet Powell
May 3, 2017

Striking workers jeered France's front-running presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday when he showed up at a northern French factory after being publicly trumped by far-right rival Marine Le Pen.

"Macron goes into the second round on a carpet of rose petals with nearly total support from the French mainstream media, elites, trade union organizations, entrepreneurs", she said in an interview on the TV channel France 2.

Ms Le Pen has vowed to keep the Amiens plant open if elected, come what may.

According to BFMTV, on his way to meet with representatives from the workers union in the French Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, Macron decided to make the trip down to the factory where about 60 employees have been striking since Monday against the factory leadership's plan to shift the plant's production to Poland. "There is no miracle recipe".

Le Pen, 48, is fighting her second presidential campaign after coming in third in 2012 while Macron, a 39-year-old former investment banker and economy minister, is fighting his first, having never held elected office.

"I'm here, in my place, exactly where I should be, in the midst of Whirlpool's employees, these employees who are resisting this wild globalization, this shameful economic model", Le Pen said.

Also on Wednesday, both contenders unveiled new campaign posters and slogans - "Choose France" for Le Pen and "Together, France!" for Macron - to take them into the run-off.

"Madame Le Pen is using the situation for political ends, stirring up crowds on a parking lot", he said.

Roughly 90% of wagers since Sunday have been placed on a Le Pen win, according to Ladbrokes, while Betfair said 70% of bets have been on the ultra-right candidate, who this week split from the National Front party in an effort to win more votes. He dismissed such an idea, saying in an interview with BFM TV channel that "the mission of a state is not to produce clothes dryers". "Your vote is not a blank check".

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Visiting the site of a strike at the tumble-drier Whirlpool factory, which is due to close next year, Le Pen pushed her anti-globalisation agenda and attacked Macron who she said was on the side of the employers.

Le Pen seized on Whirlpool as a sign of the EU's ills, calling it "the symbol of this odious globalization, which leads to plants moving overseas, destroying thousands of jobs".

Macron stood his ground for more than an hour putting his case to the workers and things gradually calmed during an encounter that was broadcast live.

"If you don't speak to employees' representatives and engage in direct democracy, with invective or false promises, you don't solve any of the country's problems", he said.

Betfair said £18.3m of bets had been made on the French president market on its betting exchange.

French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron is defending his campaign platform in a heated impromptu meeting outside a factory with workers who face losing their jobs to a plant in Poland.

Still, polls suggest that Macron will trounce Le Pen in the run-off with a margin of some 20 points.

In the 2012 presidential race, Socialist Francois Hollande traveled to a closure-threatened steel plant in eastern France's rust belt in a similar pursuit of blue-collar votes. Union leaders later felt betrayed when the Hayange plant's blast furnaces were mothballed in a deal that President Hollande's government struck with steel giant ArcelorMittal.

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