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<p>The report in Liberation newspaper, based on accounts from hundreds of readers, said many left-leaning voters would no longer support Macron to prevent Le Pen taking power.</p><p>”I’ve blocked (the far right) in the past and this time it’s over,” read Liberation’s shock front-page headline on Saturday — a quote from one of the voters who told the paper they could no longer bring themselves to vote for Macron, whatever the cost.</p><p>Polls predict the 2022 election coming down to another duel between the two politicians who fought it out on a globalist-versus-nationalist platform in 2017.</p><p>But this time, they show Le Pen far closer to the halls of power, with a Harris Interactive poll, which was never published but was leaked to the media last month, showing the National Rally leader taking 48 percent of the vote in a run-off with the incumbent.</p><p>A survey by Ipsos-Steria in early February showed that her chances would be significantly boosted by a mass stayaway by left-wing voters in the event she faced Macron.</p><p>Following Socialist Francois Hollande’s single-term presidency — which ended in 2017 with him so unpopular he decided not to stand again — the left is currently not tipped to make the run-off, with its vote split between Socialists, Greens and the hard-left France Unbowed.</p><p><strong>- ‘Hurt and humiliated’ -</strong></p><p>Some of Liberation’s readers accused the president, who campaigned as a centrist but has been accused of tacking to the right, of acting as a “president of the rich” — a label dating from his decision early in his presidency to cut wealth taxes.</p><p>Others attacked his attempts to get the French to work longer before being eligible for a full pension as well as his crackdown on anti-government “yellow vest” protests in 2018-2019 and his government’s tough rhetoric on immigration and radical Islam.</p><p>”Left-wing voters feel hurt and humiliated. They feel they are being forced to vote for a candidate who has not respected them,” Remi Lefebvre, professor of political science at Lille University, told AFP.</p><p>Faced with the rise of the anti-immigrant, anti-EU National Rally (formerly National Front) over the past two decades, mainstream French parties have regularly formed electoral pacts to bar the party winning office.</p><p>The pressure to join the “Republican front” against the far-right peaked in 2002 when Jean-Marie Le Pen trumped leftwinger Lionel Jospin for a spot in the final against centre-right candidate Chirac.</p><p>Le Pen’s breakthrough sent shockwaves through France and prompted left-wing voters to swing en masse behind Chirac, who won the run-off by a landslide.</p><p>But by 2017 the “everyone against Le Pen” strategy had already begun to unravel, with hard-left France Unbowed leader Jean-Luc Melenchon notably refusing to endorse investment banker Macron against Marine Le Pen after he himself was knocked out of the running for president.</p><p><strong>- ‘Recycling the program’ -</strong></p><p>A former economy minister under Hollande, Macron has given key cabinet posts to allies of former right-wing president Nicolas Sarkozy, such as Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin and Prime Minister Jean Castex.</p><p>In the past few weeks, his government has been accused of openly courting right-wing voters, with Darmanin criticizing Marine Le Pen in a debate over her “softness” on Islamists.</p><p>Higher Education Minister Frederique Vidal warned about the spread of “Islamo-leftism” in French universities, a term often used by the far-right to demonize leftists who defend Muslims.</p><p>”Whether on social policy, civil liberties or political rhetoric, people have the impression, I think justifiably, that Macron is recycling the program of the National Rally,” Eric Coquerel, an MP for France Unbowed, told AFP.</p><p>Coquerel voted for Macron in the run-off of the 2017 election but said “quite frankly, if it were to be done again I think I would have the same reaction as these voters (who say they will not support him again)”.</p><p>Gilles Finchelstein, director of the left-leaning Jean Jaures thinktank, said left-wing voters were “fed up” being asked to vote for the right or centre-right.</p><p>But if the election did produce another Macron-Le Pen face-off, “some of the left-wing voters who say today they will not go to vote will probably nonetheless vote for Macron,” he predicted.</p><p>© 2021 AFP</p>

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