PARIS Round two of the bitter fight for the French presidency got under way on Monday within hours of first round results with far-right leader Marine Le Pen’s top aide launching a stinging attack on her centrist opponent Emmanuel Macron.
“Emmanuel is not a patriot. He sold off national companies. He criticised French culture,” Florian Philippot, deputy leader of Le Pen’s National Front told BFM TV, saying she and Macron held completely different visions of France.
Philippot called the independent centrist and former investment banker “arrogant” and said that in Sunday night’s speech acclaiming his move into the May 7 second round “he was speaking as if he had won already”.
“That was disdainful towards the French people,” Phillipot said. Macron’s victory dinner celebrations at Paris’s upscale Rotonde restaurant amounted to “bling-bling biz,” he said.
Though Macron, 39, is a comparative political novice who has never held elected office, new opinion polls on Sunday saw him easily winning the final clash against the 48-year-old Le Pen.
Interior ministry final figures in the highly-contested first round gave Macron 23.74 percent of the votes against Le Pen’s 21.53.
A Harris survey saw Macron going on to win the runoff against her by 64 percent to 36. An Ipsos/Sopra Steria poll gave a similar result.
Analysts say Le Pen’s best chance of hauling back Macron’s big lead in the polls is to paint him as a part of an elite aloof from ordinary French people and their problems.
Part of that strategy would be to remind voters of Macron’s former role as a deal-maker in investment banking and economy minister in the discredited government of outgoing Socialist President Francois Hollande.
Sunday’s outcome is a huge defeat for the two centre-right and centre-left groupings that have dominated French politics for 60 years.
It reduces the prospect of an anti-establishment shock on the scale of Britain’s vote last June to quit the European Union and the election of Donald Trump as U.S. president.
In a victory speech on Sunday Macron told supporters of his fledgling En Marche! (Onwards!) movement: “In one year, we have changed the face of French politics.” He went on to say he would bring in new faces and talent to transform a stale political system if elected.
Conceding defeat even before figures from the count came in, rival conservative and Socialist candidates urged their supporters now to throw their energies into backing Macron and stopping any chance of a second-round victory by Le Pen, whose anti-immigration and anti-Europe policies they said spelled disaster for France.
(Writing by Andrew Callus; Editing by Richard Balmforth)