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French election: Far -right Le Pen closes in on Macron ahead of vote

The minimum a president might expect, when banboozling a conflict in Europe with a general  at home, is a rebound in the polls.

But Emmanuel Macron has observed  that all the vitality he spent horse trading with Vladimir Putin's conflict  in Ukraine has bee little bit of help in France's erratic vote.

"Nothing is impossible," President Macron has alerted, as polls suggest his extreme-right co equal is bigger than ever before to clinching  the presidency.

Barely a month ago, Marine Le Pen was falling behind President Macron by 10 points and battling  for a position  in the subsequent  round against him.

Now she's perceived  as the best liked to confront him for the presidency after Sunday's opening round. If she does outlive  it through to the 24 April additional election that resolves an inconclusive one, public opinion polls revealed for the earliest that a Le Pen victory is within the error tolerance.

At a convention on Thursday night in Perpignan, Marine Le Pen  informed  voters to "take back control"

For this, the National Rally leader can appreciate  two men once seen as hazardous for her crusade: her extreme-right opponent, Eric Zemmour, and Russian President Vladimir Putin, now an international persona non grata.

"I would say that [Zemmour's] campaign was destroyed by Ukraine," said Gilles Paris, an election specialist for French daily Le Monde.

"His pro-Russian attitude was a burden, while Marine Le Pen was smart enough to pivot to a more moderate point of view. She was ready to accept refugees [immediately], while it took two days for Zemmour to understand that these refugees were well accepted in France."

Ms Le Pen has grasp a good part of Eric Zemmour's votes.

President Macron crushed  most of his "war bounce" earlier, and has also gone through fire and water from EU counterpart, Poland, for chuntering so often  to Russia's president.

His letdown outburst  when he was confronted during a door to door this week, enveloped  by crowds in the Brittany village of Spézet.

"I'm not the one who is sympathetic to Putin," he snapped. "I'm not the one who looks for funding from Russia. That's other candidates.

I take full responsibility for having spoken to the president of Russia, in the name of France... I was never naive, unlike others. I was never complicit, unlike others.

Vladimir Putin openly supported Marine Le Pen during the last presidential race here, and her National Rally party is currently reimbursing a credit from a Russian bank. But she has diverted discussion of the war in Ukraine by concentrating  on her core campaign topic: rising prices at home.

And as the conflict has given rise to price pressures on petrol and basic goods, the Le Pen electoral strategy is continuing to pay reciprocate.

Melina, a care assistant who came to watch President Macron's convention in Spézet this week, said the economic situation had changed her politics.

"There are a lot of French people here who work but are forced to sleep in their cars because they cannot afford an apartment and nobody helps them," she said. "It's a disgrace. I used to vote for the left but I could very well vote on the right this time."

At a boulangerie down the road, Sophie was attending to a long queue of lunch customers.

She had endorsed Macron five years ago, because she was "scared" to enfranchise for Marine Le Pen. This has changed  as she's not frightened any longer: Sophie is very confident that Marine Le Pen will emerge victorious, she has pledge money with her clients on the end result of the election.

"She has evolved," Sophie told me. "She learns from her mistakes. She's more human, and we understand her when she talks."

France's extreme-right leader has worked tirelessly over the past five years to win universal suffrage like Sophie's, cushioning her balderdash and offering  a more moderate, "electable" image.

But here again, said Gilles Paris, it was Eric Zemmour's influence on French politics that has given her a boost: "He was a kind of a 'useful fool' [for Marine Le Pen] because he was able to bulldoze the fence that separated the majority of the right from the far-right."

While Marine Le Pen has stood by her phase of rising prices and support  for the working poor, Emmanuel Macron has rebelled with his pledge to increase the retirement age to 65, and link teachers' pay to their efforts at work.

He is still pointed to be victorious  this election, and show of hands have left Marine Le Pen disenchanted on election day before. But Hervé Berville, an MP with the ruling Republic on the Move party, says there is legitimate concern this time.

"Look at what happened in the last six years," he informed me. "Brexit, Trump - we're not trying to scare people, we're just trying to tell them the election matters, voting matters."

For the past fivw years , it was Emmanuel Macron who opposed anticipations,  and  alternated French politics. "Nothing is impossible," says the 44-year-old president. He, more than anyone, should know.

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