Protests are breaking out in Paris on the last day of campaigning before the French presidential election, with environmental activists dangling off the Eiffel Tower and students blocking the entrance to schools.
Activists for Greenpeace slipped into the Eiffel Tower at about 5am and hung a banner with the French national motto: Liberty, Equality, Fraternity. Six activists then abseiled down the tower’s archway. The sign was removed about 45 minutes after it was unfurled.
Meanwhile, the Paris school district said 10 high schools were completely or partially blocked by student protesters who say they oppose both presidential candidates. The protests came as the centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron said his country has to find a common destiny and overcome the anger that is dividing it.
Macron told Europe 1 radio that if he is elected his duty will be to “ensure that the country keeps its balance”. He said Friday he had chosen as his prime minister someone with enough political experience to help bring together a legislative majority but refused to name his choice. Despite a testy debate with far-right leader Marine Le Pen on Wednesday, Macron insisted that, should he win, she would be the first person he would call.
Marine Le Pen said her anger during the presidential debate was a reflection of the anger she sees throughout France. “My words were nothing but the reflection of the anger that will explode in this country,” she told RTL radio on Friday. She criticised Macron as the candidate of the elite and said the French have had enough of their political and economic situation.
In recent years, Le Pen has tried to soften the profile of the National Front party founded by her father. The party has long been accused of racism and anti-Semitism. Meanwhile, former US president Barack Obama endorsed Mr Macron in his first foray into international politics since leaving the White House.
Mr Macron released a video from Mr Obama on Thursday, with the former president touting his candidacy. “I have admired the campaign that Emmanuel Macron has run,” Mr Obama said. “He has stood up for liberal values; he put forward a vision for the important role that France plays in Europe and around the world; and he is committed to a better future for the French people. He appeals to people’s hopes, and not their fears.”
Mr Obama said he does not plan to get involved often in political situations. “I’m not planning to get involved in many elections now that I don’t have to run for office again, but the French election is very important to the future of France and the values that we care so much about. Because the success of France matters to the entire world,” he said.
Mr Macron asked Mr Obama for his support, an Obama aide said. President Donald Trump has praised Ms Le Pen, although he has not explicitly endorsed her. “She’s the strongest on borders, and she’s the strongest on what’s been going on in France,” Mr Trump said on April 21. “Whoever is the toughest on radical Islamic terrorism, and whoever is the toughest at the borders, will do well in the election.”
Allegations of fake news and hacking attempts also dominated the campaign on Thursday. There has been intense anxiety in France over the possibility that viral misinformation or hackers could influence the presidential vote. Those fears have largely failed to materialise.
Mr Macron’s campaign filed a lawsuit against an unknown source “X” after Ms Le Pen suggested during their debate that the former banker could have an offshore account. “I hope we won’t find out you have an offshore account in the Bahamas,” Ms Le Pen said. She appeared to be referring to two sets of apparent forgeries, published just hours earlier, that purported to show Mr Macron was somehow involved with a Caribbean bank and a firm based on the island of Nevis.
Mr Macron’s camp said the former investment banker was the victim of a “cyber-misinformation campaign”.
Speaking on France Inter radio, Mr Macron blamed Ms Le Pen for spreading “fake news” and said he never held a bank account “in any tax haven whatsoever”.