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French Presidential Elections: Hitting Below the Belt - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Paris – Electoral campaigns for the second round of presidential elections, which will take place on May 7, kicked off Monday, witnessing an exchange of “strikes below the belt” between parties supporting centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron on one side and far-right candidate Marine Le Pen on the other.

Amid signs of wide backing of the “Republican Front” in support of Macron, politicians from both right and left have voiced their rejection to the arrival of the National Front leader to the Elysée.

On Monday, President Francois Hollande urged the French nation to support Macron and reject Le Pen.

“What is at stake is France’s make-up, its unity, its membership of Europe and its place in the world,” he stated in a televised address.

He noted that the far-right would threaten the rupture of Europe, “profoundly divide France”.

“Faced with such a risk, I will vote for Emmanuel Macron”, Hollande added.

Sources in the Elysée Palace said that Hollande might refuse to meet with Le Pen for the handover ceremony, should the latter win the elections.

Politicians from different groups and affiliations have united behind the “Republican Front” to prevent the arrival of the far-right to power and stop Le Pen from achieving a historic victory that could have severe consequences on France and the European Union.

Le Pen, for her part, condemned the parties’ call to unite against her, denouncing what she described as “the old and completely rotten Republican Front”.

She announced on Twitter on Monday that she was temporarily stepping down as the National Front leader so she could run as a candidate for “all the French.”

Only one major candidate has resisted calls to unite against Le Pen.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the hard-left candidate who came in fourth, said that he would seek the opinion of his supporters through his website.

The French Interior Ministry released the final elections results of the first round on Monday. Macron took first place with 24.01 percent of the vote, while Le Pen came second on 21.30 percent.