Macron humiliated as Le Pen surges in polls after French President 'barely bothered to campaign'

The current president was a clear favourite for re-election, but the gap between his closest rival has dramatically narrowed

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President Emmanuel Macron faces humiliation as populist rival Marine Le Pen surges in the polls, throwing the French election race wide open.

While the current president was an initial clear favourite for re-election, after the first round of voting this weekend, recent figures show the gap between him and Ms Le Pen has dramatically narrowed.

Mr Macron is on course to defeat Ms Le Pen and stay in the Elysee by a 51 percent to 49 percent margin, according to a new poll by Ifop institute for the French television channel, TF1.

But as the gap was within the margin of error, when French voters go to the polls again on April 24, the final result is uncertain.

French President Emmanuel Macron
French President Emmanuel Macron
French President candidate Marine Le Pen
French President candidate Marine Le Pen

The close poll results come after an aggressive few weeks of campaigning from Ms Le Pen, while Mr Macron has been accused of “barely bothering to campaign” by The Times.

Mr Macron's campaign most recently hit a speed bump when he was accused of “negotiating with Hitler” while attempting to convince Vladimir Putin to end his war.

The scathing comments come from Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki who slammed his French counterpart for engaging with The Kremlin and failing to take decisive action against the Russian leader.

Mr Morawiecki said: "What have you achieved? Have you stopped any of the actions that have taken place?

“Criminals are not negotiated with, criminals must be fought. Nobody negotiated with Hitler."

A Le Pen presidency is predicted to have a dramatic impact on global affairs, as she has vowed to pull France out of NATO once elected.

She said during a meeting with her constituents in the northern city of Reims: “We must defend our interests freely and get out of the logic of military alliances … Therefore, we will get out of the unified NATO command, so as not to allow us to be dragged again into useless conflicts.”

Political analyst Mujtaba Rahman of the Eurasia Group said a Le Pen presidency would pose an existential crisis for the European Union and NATO at a particularly crucial historical moment.

Mr Rahman told the Independent: “It would fundamentally undermine the western alliance.

“The EU would no longer be able to put up a coherent front against Russia in Ukraine.

"France would become a destructive partner within the EU, and that would have profound implications for the EU’s ability to function, and would fundamentally undermine the EU’s place in the world.”

Ms Le Pen won the backing of Éric Zemmour, 63, the anti-Islam candidate and political novice, who called on his voters to support her in the second round.

Speaking on GB News, Anne-Elisabeth Ms Moutet told presenter Mark Steyn that Ms Le Pen has benefited from his candidacy.

She said: “She has benefited from the presence of Eric Zemmour because he has put out into the open many things in such a frank manner that she can in many ways ride on his idealogical cocktails while she is softer, nicer and more feminine.

Ms Moutet added: “She had a rough time at the start of this campaign, but she is now basking in the sunshine of a possible victory."