Emmanuel Macron was booed and whistled at by striking factory workers in his hometown of Amiens, northern France, after an ambush by his nationalist rival Marine Le Pen forced him into a confrontation with some of her hardcore supporters.
Le Pen made a surprise visit to the Whirlpool Corp. plant on the edge of Amiens while election front-runner Macron was meeting with union leaders from the plant in the center of town. Le Pen told reporters on the picket line that Macron’s decision to meet the workers’ representatives behind closed doors showed his “contempt” for their plight, forcing her rival to change his plans and engage with the demonstrators live on television.
With the black smoke of burning tires whipped up by a cold wind and cries of “Marine! President!” punctuating his remarks, Macron tried to mount a defense of the European trade regime in the factory parking lot as angry demonstrators crowded round.
“When she tells you the solution is to turn back globalization, she’s lying,” Macron told the workers, his comments picked by the microphones of more than 100 reporters witnessing the clash. “We cannot outlaw firing. We must fight to find a buyer.”
(…) Although the 39-year-old rookie in his first political campaign is the strong favorite to win the presidential runoff on May 7, he needs to regain the initiative after stumbling at the start of the week. A survey by Harris Interactive released Wednesday showed 61 percent of voters thought Le Pen had started the final stretch of campaigning well and 52 percent thought Macron had done badly.