French President Emmanuel Macron is to declare he is standing for a new term in April elections he is widely expected to win, sources in his campaign said on Thursday.
The first round of elections is on April 10, followed by a second-round run-off two weeks later, with the campaign now dominated by Russia’s war on Ukraine.
Macron, who has until now declined to officially confirm he is standing, will announce his intention in a “letter to the French” that will be published online later Thursday, the sources told AFP.
The president, who has been at the centre of diplomacy over Ukraine, has left his official declaration to the last minute with the deadline set by the authorities at 6 pm (1700 GMT) on Friday.
Macron will formally announce his candidacy in a “letter to the French” that will be published online, the sources told AFP.
There was little suspense about the 44-year-old’s intentions, but the announcement has been repeatedly delayed because of the crisis in eastern Europe that has seen Macron take a prominent role in diplomatic talks.
Macron has yet to engage in any official campaigning and scrapped a rally planned in Marseille this weekend due to the Ukraine crisis.
Rivals ‘boxing on their own’Ahead of Friday’s deadline for candidates to stand, polls widely show him as the front runner in the two-round election on April 10 and 24, with the war turning the attention to foreign policy rather than the domestic issues favoured by his opponents.
“In a crisis, citizens always get behind the flag and line up behind the head of state,” said Antoine Bristielle, a public opinion expert at the Jean-Jaurès Foundation, a Paris think tank.
“The other candidates are inaudible. In every media, all anyone is talking about is the invasion,” he told AFP.
One ruling party MP told AFP this week the Ukraine crisis meant that Macron’s rivals were “boxing on their own”, while several polls have shown his personal ratings rising.
The former investment banker admitted in a national address on Wednesday night that the crisis had “hit our democratic life and the election campaign” but promised “an important democratic debate for the country” would take place.
Voter surveys currently tip the centrist to win the first round of the election with 26 percent and then triumph in the April 24 run-off irrespective of his opponent.
Macron’s handling of Ukraine crisis viewed favourablyAfter five tumultuous years in office, Macron’s biggest challenge comes from opponents on his right who accuse him of being lax on immigration, soft on crime and slow to defend French culture.
These include the conservative Valérie Pécresse from the Republicans party, far-right candidate Marine Le Pen and anti-Islam media pundit Éric Zemmour.
On the left, four mainstream candidates are competing, which is expected to split the vote and lead to all of them being eliminated in the first round.
Macron’s camp has been looking for the right moment to launch his candidacy since early February, but the Ukraine crisis has seen his agenda filled with either foreign trips or talks with other leaders.
On Thursday he spoke for the third time in a week to Russian President Vladimir Putin and again with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
A recent poll by the Elabe group, published March 1, showed that confidence in Macron’s “ability to tackle the main problems of the country” was up a massive five points in a month.
Another by the Harris Interactive group showed 58 percent of French people held a favourable view of his handling of the Ukraine crisis.
Allies of the president are quietly confident, but analysts warn many voters remain undecided and that sentiment can swing sharply in the final weeks of campaigning.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)