PARIS – French far-right leader Marine Le Pen on Monday accused Emmanuel Macron, her inexperienced opponent in next month’s runoff for the presidency, of being weak in the face of Islamist terrorism.
Global markets reacted with relief to Sunday’s first round of voting, which broke the dominance of established parties of the centre-left and centre-right but still left a pro-European Union centrist and former economy minister in pole position to become France’s next leader.
The euro briefly reached five-month peaks while European shares rose sharply.
The latest opinion polls indicate that Macron, a 39-year-old who has never held elected office, will win at least 61 percent of votes.
Those figures soothed investors who have been unnerved by Le Pen’s pledges to ditch the euro, print money and possibly quit the EU, and were nervous of another anti-establishment upheaval to follow Britain’s “Brexit” vote and Donald Trump’s election as US president.
Le Pen, 48, has also touted her pledges to suspend the EU’s open-border agreement on France’s frontiers, and to expel foreigners who are on the watch lists of intelligence services, as the right response to a series of Islamist attacks in France.
Seeking to exploit Macron’s lack of experience in the area, she told reporters in her northern stronghold of Henin-Beaumont: “I’m on the ground to meet the French people to draw their attention to important subjects, including Islamist terrorism, on which Mr Macron is, to say the least, weak.”
France has seen a series of attacks by Islamist militants in the past two years which have killed more than 230 people; only three days before Sunday’s vote, a policeman was shot dead and two others were wounded in central Paris in an attack claimed by the Islamic State jihadist group.
But despite this, opinion polls consistently found that voters were more concerned about the economy and the trustworthiness of politicians.
Macron’s internal security program calls for 10,000 more police officers, and 15,000 new prison places. He has recruited a number of security experts to his entourage, and noted that Le Pen has less experience of national government than he does.