The first round of voting in the French election takes place today (Sunday), with the election itself culminating two weeks later on April 24. Emmanuel Macron is seeking to win a second term in office after beating Marine Le Pen in the last presidential election in 2017. He had been widely expected to enjoy a reasonably comfortable victory in this year’s election, but the latest polls suggest his right-wing rival Ms Le Pen is closing the gap.
His campaign has been extremely short as he turned his attention towards trying to broker a peace deal between Russia and Ukraine, which saw him travel to Moscow for crunch talks with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.
Mr Macron held his one and only rally so far last weekend in a stadium just outside Paris that saw him warn 35,000 supporters over the risk of a Brexit-style upset in the upcoming election.
But he has come under furious attack from French MEP Nicolas Bay, the former General Secretary of Ms Le Pen’s National Rally who is now with Eric Zemmour’s Reconquête! party
When asked about Mr Macron’s delayed and short election campaign, Mr Bay told Express.co.uk: “If there is a tactic, it is a tactic of withdrawal.
“Emmanuel Macron wanted his campaign to be as short as possible to avoid having to confront his disastrous record.
“He runs away from debates with the other candidates, he runs away from interviews, he even runs away from the voters and does not organise meetings.
“He does nothing, says nothing. Who can even really pretend to know what he thinks?
“He doesn’t want to campaign because he is trying to control as best he can an image that would be extremely negative if he had to face a real democratic debate.”
The early part of his presidency was dominated by the “Yellow Vests” protests, the weekly demonstration that began in November 2018 and often saw protestors violently clash with police and vandalise structures.
The movement, which had attracted nearly one million signatures through an online petition, was initially motivated by surging crude oil and fuel prices, the high cost of living and economic equality.
Furious protestors had claimed a disproportionate burden of taxation in France was falling on the working and middle classes.
But Mr Macron is still trying to fight off even more economic pressures after French inflation surged past five percent last month – significantly up from 4.2 percent recorded in February.
Last month, French consumer confidence also plummeted to its lowest point in more than a year as inflation fears start to take a firm grip on the country.
The INSEE official stats agency said its consumer confidence index fell to 91 points from 97 in February, plunging significantly following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
This result, the lowest since February 2021, fell short of economists’ forecasts for 94 points on average in a Reuters poll.
The French President has also sparked fury among older voters by vowing to push up the retirement age from 62 years to 65.
During his election rally last weekend, Mr Macron warned thousands of his supporters during a rally not the assume he will win the election, pointing to Brexit as an example of unexpected political outcomes.
He said: “Don’t believe the commentators or the opinion polls who say it’s impossible, unthinkable, who say ‘the election is already won and it’ll all be fine’.
“Look at us, look at you, five years ago. People said it was impossible.
“Look at Brexit and so many elections where the result seemed improbable but did actually happen.”