Borrowing from the left, Macron signals greener pitch at Marseille rally

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French President Emmanuel Macron rallied supporters in Marseille on Saturday, hoping to sway voters who placed the left's Jean-Luc Mélenchon in the lead during the first round of France's presidential election a week ago.

Macron faces far-right challenger Marine Le Pen in a run-off election on April 24, with polls pointing to a tight race.

The incumbent president has sought to broaden his support base this week by wooing voters who backed third-placed Mélenchon in the first round.

He borrowed directly from the veteran leftist's platform on Saturday by promising to put his next prime minister in charge of "planification écologique" (ecological planning) – a concept popularised by Mélenchon.

Adressing thousands of supporters in central Marseille, Macron promised a "complete renewal" of his policies. He said he would also appoint a minister of "energy planning" with "a mission to make France the first leading nation to end oil, gas and coal consumption".

The French president, who hails from northern France, has sought to cultivate ties with Marseille during his term in office. He unveiled a plan aimed at tackling the city's drug-related violence and gang killings during a visit in September.

But he was soundly beaten in last Sunday's first round of voting, trailing Mélenchon in Marseille by 9 percentage points.

Both Macron and Le Pen are scrambling to reach out to the 22% of voters who backed Mélenchon nationwide and now find themselves without a preferred candidate in the second round.

Paris protests

The far-right candidate still trails the incumbent in the polls, though she has significantly narrowed the gap since she lost a lopsided contest five years ago. The most recent polls point to a tight race on April 24, albeit with signs that the president may be slightly extending his lead.

Across France, protesters staged multiple rallies on Saturday amid widespread dissatisfaction with an election that has resulted in a repeat of the 2017 match-up between Macron and Le Pen.

In the centre of Paris on Saturday, environmental group Extinction Rebellion launched a three-day demonstration against what they call France's inaction on climate issues. The activists said their objective was “to put climate issues back at the centre of the presidential debate”.

There were also protests against the far right in Paris and other cities, which Le Pen dismissed as undemocratic.

"The establishment is worried," she told reporters on a campaign stop in southern France. "That people are protesting against election results is deeply undemocratic. I say to all these people just go and vote. It's as simple as that."

A pivotal moment in the final phase of the campaign will come on April 20 when the two meet for their only live debate of the whole campaign broadcast live on French television.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP)

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