Spotlight: French presidential election 2017: Macron or Le Pen?

PARIS-- After Brexit and the election of Donald Trump as U.S. president, eyes are on France where voters will choose their next president amid public discontent and high terror alert in the European country.

Could Trump's victory serve as a boon to France's far-right candidate Marine Le Pen from the National Front?

"The impossible has suddenly become possible," Le Pen told thousands of supporters in Lyon, France's third-largest city, kicking off her campaign on Sunday.

"Other countries have shown us the way. The British have chosen Brexit and the United States has chosen their national interests," Le Pen told her followers.

However, BVA pollster analyst Erwan Lestrohan believed that Le Pen might enjoy a boost in ratings but could not win the presidency.

Providing support for Lestrohan's remarks, an Opinionway poll published on Wednesday showed that French independent centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron would easily beat Le Pen in the race.

An Opinionway poll for Les Echos newspaper and Radio Classique showed that in the first round of voting scheduled for April 23, Macron, a former economy minister, would get 22 percent of the vote, behind Le Pen's 25 percent. But in the decisive second round, Macron would beat Le Pen 66 percent to 34 percent, the poll showed.

Under fire over his wife's fake job, embattled conservative contender Francois Fillon, a front-runner until two weeks ago, will not be able to enter the second round.

Experts believed that the surprise that happened in the U.S. election is not expected in France because the two electoral systems are different.

"In the United States, the presidential election has only one vote, which Donald Trump won. In France, the presidential election has two rounds. This allows the voters of non-finalist candidates to choose one of the two qualified to block the other," Lestrohan told Xinhua.

Continued terror threats and rising risks of immigration crisis give a boost to Le Pen, who embraces protectionism. However, the 49-year-old lawyer does not have a strong majority and enough solidity to win the presidential run-off, said Lestrohan.

Thomas Guenole, a political scientist and professor at Sciences Po University, agreed.

"The only one scenario in which Le Pen could likely win the presidential election is if she faces an unpopular candidate from the right or the left in the second round, which is very unlikely," said Guenole.

In 144 "commitments" unveiled on Saturday, Le Pen pledged to slash migration, repatriate all illegal immigrants and impose taxes on the job contracts of foreigners.

Macron promised to further reduce France's high employment charges and increase workers' minimum wage. He also wants to raise taxes on consumption and wealthy pensioners.

Macron also promised to boost the defense budget, hire 10,000 more police officers and raise funding for schools.

"We can no longer defend a political system whose practices weaken democracy," he told supporters at the weekend in Lyon.

The pro-business contender joined the Socialist government in August 2014 as economy minister. Two years later, he quit his post to focus on his presidential campaign.

Macron, an advisor to current President Francois Hollande during his election campaign, was one of the authors of a flagship blueprint for the revival of growth and employment in France.

The disgraced Fillon appealed to voters on Wednesday via a newspaper column to back his campaign.

"It's for you and only you to decide," Fillon wrote. "Nothing will divert me from the real aim of my presidential campaign: to get France back on its feet and bring the French together."

The Republican candidate has pledged tough cuts in public spending.

Since the scandal emerged that his wife was receiving hefty salaries for an alleged job she did not do, Fillon's campaign has lost steam. Opinion polls show that he is unlikely to reach a second round run-off.

However, the 62-year-old ex-prime minister has expressed fierce determination to stick to his presidential bid.

"I am the only candidate which can bring about a national recovery," he told reporters.

Source: Philippines information agency

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