Macron, Le Pen offer sharp contrast in visions for France

Centrist presidential frontrunner Emmanuel Macron and his far-right rival Marine Le Pen traded campaign blows across Paris on May Day, as France's most crucial election in decades entered its final week.

With no majority victor, the top two vote-getters-far-right leader Marine Le Pen of the National Front and Emmanuel Macron of the progressive En Marche! party-will face off on May 7, 2017. On this day 15 years ago, some 1.3 million people took to the streets of France in union-led demonstrations to protest against the founder of the National Front (FN), including 400,000 in Paris.

In an anniversary gesture clearly aimed at painting the National Front (FN) as extremist a week before he faces its candidate Marine Le Pen in a run-off vote for the presidency, Macron observed a minute's silence on the riverbank.

Supporters of both candidates took to the streets, airwaves and social media to weigh on an election closely watched by financial markets and France's neighbors as a test of the global populist wave.

Mr Macron, who says his plans to restructure France's complex labour laws would boost job creation, said May 1 "is the face of a globalisation that protects workers.an accomplishment of the great labour fights to defend worker rights".

Emmanuel Macron, as a former minister under the current and highly unpopular president Francois Hollande, has demonstrated his hostility to the working class by pushing for "reforms" that would roll back the rights of labor and line the pockets of French capitalists.

An alliance at the national and presidential level between the FN and a right-wing party is unprecedented and points to the collapse of the two-party system made up of the Socialist Party (PS) and The Republicans (LR), whose candidates were eliminated on the first round.

"The transition from the single currency to the European common currency is not a pre-requisite for all economic policy, the timetable will adapt to the immediate priorities and challenges facing the French government", Le Pen wrote.

"She has reminded public opinion that the French were not responsible for deporting Jews to death camps, in a bid to show that she has shaken off her father's anti-Semitic complex and to get Israel to back her".

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Cheers of "Marine President!" and anti-immigrant chants rose up in the crowd of thousands for Le Pen's rally Monday north of Paris.

He had repeatedly called the Nazi gas chambers a "detail" of history, and she booted him out of the party in 2015.

Despite his lack of political experience, polls now show he will beat Le Pen by around 20 percentage points.

He visited a Holocaust memorial in Paris on Sunday and a village burned down by the Nazis in World War Two last week.

Le Pen and Macron meet in a May 7 runoff.

According to the survey, he is projected to secure 61 percent of votes in the run-off against Le Pen's 39 percent. There is an urgent sense among the political classes that a united front needs to be shored up against the threat of the far-right.

Mr Macron also won a new ally with an endorsement from once-prominent centrist Jean-Louis Borloo.

Le Pen, who has courted the blue-collar vote, visited the Alteo aluminum plant Sunday in the town of Gardanne, but the event appeared to fall flat. It prompted the departure of vice president Dominique Jamet, who told BFM that the Le Pen-Dupont-Aignan alliance is "a couple that doesn't please me".

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