French Presidential Runoff Election Live: Emmanuel Macron Faces Marine Le Pen

Credit …James Hill for The New York Times

HARDECOURT-AUX-BOIS, France – Marine Le Pen spent the last two days of her campaign in the deindustrialized, economically struggling areas in the north of France that, along with a Mediterranean stretch in the south, form her strongholds.

Exhorting her core supporters to vote on Sunday, Ms. Le Pen held events in the Somme department, home to towns and villages where her attacks against her rival, Emmanuel Macron, as an “arrogant” president full of “disdain” for ordinary people resonated powerfully.

“To me, Emmanuel Macron is a president who has made the rich richer,” said Gaëtan François, 40, a construction tractor operator and a village councilor, outside the City Hall in Hardecourt-aux-Bois. “Marine Le Pen is the only one to defend the workers.”

In Hardecourt-aux-Bois, a village of 85 people in the Somme, only three people voted for Mr. Macron in the first round earlier this month. Ms. Le Pen got 78 percent of the votes, her highest score nationwide.

The village, like the rest of the region, has drifted rightward in the past decade.

Maurice Clement, 82, a retired truck driver, said he had voted for Socialists most of his life. In 2017, he voted for Ms. Le Pen in the first round, but for Mr. Macron in the runoff because he was worried about the extreme right.

This time, he had no such worries. Mr. Macron’s policies, he said, had plunged France in a “hole,” citing the record government debt accumulated during his presidency. He was angry about Mr. Macron’s proposal to raise the retirement age to 65 from 62 as part of his plans to overhaul the pension system. For those who had done hard manual labor all their lives, retiring at 65 was the equivalent of retiring in “crutches,” he said.

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Ms. Le Pen, he said, “is the only choice.”

About 24 miles away, Ham, a town of about 5,000 people, has also shifted rightward in recent years. In the 2012 presidential election, people in Ham voted like the rest of the nation by choosing François Hollande, the Socialist Party candidate, over the center-right Nicolas Sarkozy.

But in 2017, Ham picked Ms. Le Pen over Mr. Macron. Ms. Le Pen won 56 percent of the votes in Ham, compared with only 34 percent nationwide.

On Sunday, Ms. Le Pen was expected to handily defeat Mr. Macron in Ham once again. In the first round of voting two weeks ago, she had 41 percent of the votes, with Mr. Macron getting only 24 percent.

Beyond Ms. Le Pen’s focus on the working class, her longstanding tough talk on crime and immigration appealed to voters like Hubert Bekaert, 68, a retired optician.

“I’m sick of using taxpayer money to house terrorists in prison,” he said, adding that he wanted the death penalty restored. “Marine Le Pen is the only one who’s tough on crime.”

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