Macron, Le Pen Kick Off Final Week With Major Paris Rallies

(Bloomberg) -- Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron kick off the final week of the French presidential campaign with major rallies in Paris after weekend sparring on subjects ranging from the euro to the environment.

With a week to go in the campaign, Le Pen appeared to step back from her single most distinct policy, saying Saturday that there was no rush on a euro exit. Then Sunday, in an interview with Le Parisien newspaper, she said “the euro is dead” and that she still wants to have two currencies -- one for daily use by the population and one for international trade. The key change she has made is to make the timing of a referendum on the matter less urgent, to help her win the backing of Nicolas Dupont Aignon, who had just under 5 percent of the vote in the first round of the election.

“Le Pen is trying to reassure people on the euro,” said Bruno Cautres, a political scientist at SciencesPo in Paris. “But ultimately people perceive her as the anti-European candidate. This may win her a few votes by showing that she is pragmatic but fundamentally it’s unlikely to change anything.”

After months of campaigning, Le Pen and pro-European centrist Macron became the finalists in France’s presidential race last week. Voters face a choice between them on May 7 to replace Francois Hollande as head of state. Both said on France 2 television Sunday that they are spoiling to their one-on-one debate scheduled for Wednesday.

Though Macron has consistently led in the polls, his margin has slipped in recent days as Le Pen pulls out all the stops to secure the first-ever presidential election victory of the far-right party built up by her father starting in 1972. Macron, a 39-year-old former economy minister, currently has the support of 59.5 percent of voters, compared with 40.5 percent percent for Le Pen, according to Bloomberg’s composite of French polls.

“I’m not arrogant or presumptuous -- no battle is won,” Macron said late Sunday.

Jean-Luc Melenchon, the far-left candidate who took 19.2 percent of the vote in the first round of the election and has so far refused to endorse Macron said Sunday that the independent should make a “gesture” in dropping his commitment to reform French labor law. “Mr. Macron, you can’t simply rely on voters who believe in your plans,” he said on TF1 TV.

Speaking to cameras in Paris, Macron said he would respond at his rally at 5 p.m.

In a speech that started at about noon, Le Pen lambasted Macron for working with Hollande, who became the least popular president in half a century. Macron, who has also worked as a banker, became economic adviser to Hollande when he took office in 2012 and before being named economy minister in 2014.

“Don’t extend this contemptible mandate, don’t let them intimidate you,” Le Pen told supporters in Paris. “On May 7, I ask you to block arrogance, finance and money as king,” she said.