SAINT-DENIS, France — Emmanuel Macron is wooing disaffected left-wing voters and warning them against abstaining in Sunday’s presidential election runoff by spelling out just what a victory for his far-right rival Marine Le Pen would mean for France’s Muslim community.
The president-candidate on Thursday visited Saint-Denis, a multicultural commune in Paris’s northern suburbs, in a last-ditch attempt to win the support of a diverse and working-class community that heavily backed veteran left-winger Jean-Luc Mélenchon in the first round of the election on April 10.
With far-right candidates Eric Zemmour and Le Pen stigmatizing France’s Muslims, Mélenchon emerged as their defender, denouncing a rampant “anti-Muslim sentiment” in the country. Ahead of Sunday’s runoff vote, many of Mélenchon’s supporters are hesitating between staying home, casting a blank ballot or voting for Macron.
Meeting local groups in the town square, Macron sought to warn against the consequences of Le Pen making it to the Elysée.
After promising to do more for disadvantaged neighborhoods, he slammed Le Pen’s proposal to reserve social housing for French people, accusing his opponent of wanting to exclude foreign citizens from social housing.
As an example, he said, “a young Moroccan lady who has two children, who works at the hospital, who was applauded every evening during the pandemic … with Madame Le Pen’s program, we will take away her social housing and her family benefits.”
“It’s a program of discord,” Macron told reporters, accusing Le Pen of “mixing up terrorism, insecurity, immigration, Islam and Islamism all the time.”
This week, Le Pen stressed she was not planning to expel foreign citizens as her proposal would not apply retrospectively.
The president was given a mixed reception, with some groups singing anti-Macron chants — borrowed from the Yellow Jackets movement — and others cheering him on.