Macron regrets entering France's presidential race late as Le Pen cuts lead

French President and centrist La Republique en Marche (LREM) party candidate for re-election Emmanuel Macron (R) as he takes part in the show "10 Minutes pour Convaincre" (10 Minutes to Convince) on French TV channel TF1 in Boulogne-Billancourt, outside Paris, on April 6, 2022. [Reuters]


French President Emmanuel Macron voiced regret on Friday for starting campaigning late as opinion polls showed him holding a slender lead over the far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, who he warned would scare investors away from France.

Le Pen has surged in the polls in recent weeks and is expected to face off in the second round against Macron, whose re-election was thought to be a foregone conclusion even a few weeks ago. 

Macron is still ahead in the polls for the second-round match-up, but his lead is within the margin of error.

"Who could have understood six weeks ago that all of sudden I would start political rallies, that I would focus on domestic issues when the war started in Ukraine," Macron told RTL radio.

"So it is a fact that I entered (the campaign) even later than I wished," Macron said, adding that he retained a "spirit of conquest rather than of defeat."

If Le Pen is elected this month, her social programme will drive away international investors, Macron said in an interview with daily Le Parisien.

"Her program will create massive unemployment because it will drive international investors away and it will not hold up budget-wise," he said.

"Her fundamentals have not changed: it is a racist program that aims to divide society and is very brutal."

Le Pen told France Info radio on Friday: "Emmanuel Macron does not know my program... he must think it is that of (far-left contender) Jean-Luc Melenchon."