HARDECOURT-AUX-BOIS, France – Marine Le Pen has spent the last two days of her campaign in the deindustrialized and economically struggling regions of northern France which, together with a Mediterranean part to the south, form her strongholds.
Urging her main supporters to vote on Sunday, Ms Le Pen staged events in the Somme department, which is home to towns and villages where her attacks on her rival, Emmanuel Macron, as an “arrogant” president full of “contempt for ordinary people resonated. powerfully.
“For me, Emmanuel Macron is a president who has enriched the rich,” said Gaëtan François, 40, construction tractor driver and municipal councilor, in front of the town hall of Hardecourt-aux-Bois. “Marine Le Pen is the only one to defend the workers.”
In Hardecourt-aux-Bois, a village of 85 people in the Somme, only three people voted for Mr Macron in the first round earlier this month. Ms. Le Pen won 78% of the vote, her highest score nationally.
The village, like the rest of the region, has drifted to the right over the past decade.
Maurice Clément, 82, a retired lorry driver, said he voted for the Socialists most of his life. In 2017, he had voted for Ms. Le Pen in the first round, but for Mr. Macron in the second round because he was worried about the far right.
This time, he had no such worries. Mr Macron’s policies, he said, had plunged France into a “hole”, citing the record public debt accumulated during his presidency. He was angry at Mr Macron’s proposal to raise the retirement age from 62 to 65 as part of his plan to overhaul the pension system. For those who have done hard manual labor all their lives, retiring at 65 was like retiring on “crutches”, he said.
Mrs Le Pen, he said, “is the only choice”.
About 24 miles away, Ham, a town of around 5,000, has also shifted to the right in recent years. In the 2012 presidential election, the residents of Ham voted like the rest of the nation, choosing Francois Hollande, the Socialist Party candidate, over center-right Nicolas Sarkozy.
But in 2017 Ham chose Ms Le Pen over Mr Macron. Ms Le Pen won 56% of the vote in Ham, compared to just 34% nationally.
On Sunday, Ms Le Pen was expected to easily defeat Mr Macron again in Ham. In the first round of voting two weeks ago, she had obtained 41% of the vote, Mr. Macron obtaining only 24%.
Beyond Ms Le Pen’s emphasis on the working class, her long-standing tough talk on crime and immigration has won over voters like Hubert Bekaert, 68, a retired optician.
“I’m tired of using taxpayers’ money to house terrorists in prison,” he said, adding that he wanted the death penalty reinstated. “Marine Le Pen is the only one to be tough on crime.”