EU POLL: Is the bloc to blame for the rise of Le Pen?

Macron and Le Pen 'have a lot in common' says Mélenchon

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The EU has been a contentious issue dividing the two political rivals, all the way back to the 2017 election in which Ms Le Pen conceded a resounding defeat at the hands of Mr Macron. Becoming France’s youngest-ever president aged 39, he clinched the presidency in the second-round run-off over Ms Le Pen, with 66 percent of the vote.

Mr Macron had maintained a comfortable margin in the polls ahead of Ms Le Pen this year, but now polls suggest the National Rally party leader is catching up with the president.

In a wry comment, Mr Macron said: “Nothing is impossible.”

Calling on his supporters to avoid complacency, he said: “Look at Brexit and so many elections, what appeared impossible and happened… nothing is impossible.”

Mr Macron has pushed for further EU integration of key member states, and has previously uttered calls for policies such as an EU army to be put into action.

Ms Le Pen, on the other hand, has proved an open and vocal sceptic of the bloc, shaming Mr Macron for gestures such as placing the EU flag under the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.

This time round, Ms Le Pen has dialled back her Eurosceptic rhetoric to focus on the rising cost of living and domestic policies within French borders.

As the US’s German Marshall Fund puts it, the French elections and EU politics are intertwined, and the results of April’s elections will “define” both bloc and French politics for “the next few years”.

Incumbent Mr Macron had always been the assumed winner in the run-up to the elections, yet opinion polls started to show a surge in popularity for long-time rival Marine Le Pen which might make the current French president nervous

Research firm Elabe released the results of a poll on Friday which projected that Mr Macron will win 26 percent of the vote in the first round, with Ms Le Pen just one point behind him.

Another survey by Harris-Toluna indicated Mr Macron would snatch 27 percent of the first-round vote, with Ms Le Pen slightly further behind at 24 percent.

The first round of voting for the French presidential elections will take place on Sunday, with voters picking their favourite of 12 candidates.

The two contenders who emerge from the first round will square off in a second round on April 24.

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Mr Macron took his time in declaring his candidacy, and has only held one campaign rally ahead of the elections.

Addressing his pre-occupation with Ukraine, he added: “No one would understand if I wasn’t there to protect the French.”

With his energy diverted by the Ukraine crisis, he is seen as having ignored a number of the pressing domestic social issues which could sway voters another way.

He said in a jab at the National Rally: “I take full responsibility for having spoken to the president of Russia, in the name of France.

“I was never naive, unlike others. I was never complicit, unlike others.”

Ms Le Pen has zeroed in on the rising cost of living, seeing her gaining ground.

Mr Macron, a former investment banker, has previously been branded a “president of the rich”. This is a label he is looking to shed as voters’ pockets are pinched and fuel prices rise.

French bar owner Rosie Garcia told the Telegraph: “Macron has done too much for the rich.

“He may have cut taxes but pensions and wages are not going up and everything else is. Maybe she’ll [Le Pen] be worse but let’s try.”

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