Former U.S. president Barack Obama officially endorsed French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron Thursday, calling a victory by Marcon “very important to the future of France and the values we care so much about.”
Obama said he admired Macron’s “liberal values” and said Macron is committed to a better future for the French.
“Because of how important this election is, I am supporting Emmanuel Macron to lead you forward,” Obama said, noting that Macron appeals to “people’s hopes and not fears,” a seeming jab at right-wing candidate Marine Le Pen.
Obama’s last minute intervention comes a day after Le Pen and Macron faced off in a scathing two hours of televised debate, and just days before they face each other in a runoff election.
Le Pen portrayed her opponent as a heartless capitalist who is weak on terrorism, while Macron called her a liar and a dangerous extremist.
Le Pen in her opening statement called the former economy minister Macron “the candidate of savage globalization.” Macron called Le Pen, who once was forced to kick her extreme-right father out of their National Front political party, the heir to France’s far-right faction.
The country’s high unemployment rate was on the agenda. Macron called for simplified government regulations and small and medium-sized businesses, while Le Pen promised to tax the products of companies that outsource jobs.
Regarding terrorism, which has taken at least 240 French lives in the past two years, Le Pen called for closing mosques suspected of fostering extremism, expanding prisons, and securing France’s borders. Macron called for better online surveillance, more police officers, and better intelligence sharing.
The debate between the far-right Le Pen and her centrist rival Macron could be the climax of the heated campaign, as the two candidates attempt to shore up support from France’s voters – 18 percent of whom are estimated to be undecided.
An opinion polling average shows Macron with a 60 percent to 40 percent lead over Le Pen, though that lead has shrunk by about three percentage points since the first round of voting on April 23.
In a poll done immediately after the debate for BFM TV, 63 percent of those surveyed found Macron more convincing compared to 34 percent for Le Pen.
The debate Wednesday night was broadcast to about 20 million viewers on France’s two largest television stations. It was billed as a showdown between the two candidates in their first face-to-face appearance.