Macron Gets a Boost From French Pact Opening Gap Ahead of Fillon

  • Independent Macron bolstered campaign through pact with ally
  • Fillon camp says Macron and Bayrou are secret socialists

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Emmanuel Macron, the maverick presidential candidate who created his own political movement less than a year ago, got a pickup in the polls from his new centrist alliance to move 2 percentage points ahead of his main rival.

Macron jumped 3.5 points in Ifop’s daily tracking poll on Thursday to reach 22.5 percent, the first to incorporate reactions to his pact with one-time rival for the political center ground, Francois Bayrou. Republican Francois Fillon also gained from Bayrou’s decision to stay out of the race, rising 1.5 points to 20.5 percent, his highest score with Ifop in nearly three weeks.

Emmanuel Macron

Photographer: Marlene Awaad/Bloomberg

With exactly two months to go until the first round of voting in a topsy-turvy race, the 39-year-old Macron is vying with Fillion, a former prime minister, for the second slot in the May 7 run-off. The nationalist Marine Le Pen is favorite to win the first round -- Ifop projected she’ll get 26 percent -- but she’s also tipped to lose heavily in the final ballot.

Macron quit the Hollande government last year to mount an independent bid for president and overturned expectations to become the marginal front-runner for the French election. He suffered his first major hiccup last week when he managed to ruffle both the conservatives proud of France’s colonial past and the gay community, fueling concerns that Le Pen might emerge from the melee with a mandate to take the country out of the euro.

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The spread between French 10-year bonds and similar-maturity German bunds rose 1 basis point to 75 at 6:38 p.m. in Paris.

As well as snagging Bayrou, Macron also won the backing of former green party member Francois de Rugy, who was defeated in the Socialist Party’s primary. Bayrou has the support of about 5 percent of voters, a prize for Macron in a tight race.

“The step we’ve taken together is a real turning point in this political campaign and in French politics,” Macron said in a televised statement alongside Bayrou, following a 10-hour meeting in Paris.

Fillon, Hamon

Francois Baroin, a former finance minister who’s helping Fillon, tried to downplay the significance of the alliance, comparing it to Bayrou’s support for President Francois Hollande in 2012 instead of Nicolas Sarkozy, traditionally a closer ally. Macron worked for Hollande, first as economic adviser and then as minister between 2014 and 2016.

“Bayrou has been a clandestine socialist for 20 years now,” Baroin said on Europe 1 radio. “This is effectively the second time he’ll be voting for Francois Hollande. This time he’s paying for his place officially.”

The Socialist candidate Benoit Hamon issued a statement complaining that he had already taken the lead on the public ethics initiatives that Bayrou has agreed with Macron and questioning Macron’s commitment to the measures. He said Macron should publish names of his donors and name lobbyists that he’s met.

Divided Left

With Bayrou’s backing, “Macron can embody the return of morality to political life, which is an important issue for many voters,” Bruno Cautres, a political scientist at Sciences Po institute, said on LCI television.

Macron’s ability to pick up endorsements contrasts to the left, where Hamon and far-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon have failed to mount a joint bid. Ifop put Hamon at 13.5 percent and Melenchon at 11 percent, meaning that combined they’d have enough to reach the presidential run-off. Hamon did pick up a the backing of green candidate Yannick Jadot Thursday. Polls show Jadot had the support of about 2 percent of voters.

“We can never say never for the left, but there is a huge amount of bad blood on both sides,” said Sudhir Hazareesingh, a history lecturer at Balliol College, Oxford. “If Hamon gets too close to Melenchon he will lose support to Macron.”

— With assistance by Gregory Viscusi

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