France’s far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen upstaged rival Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday by making a surprise campaign stop at a Whirlpool factory where Macron was meeting with union leaders.
Both presidential hopefuls are trying to appeal to blue-collar voters, and the Whirlpool factory – which is threatened with being outsourced to Poland – has become the latest symbol of French jobs lost to globalisation.
As Macron was meeting with union leaders, Le Pen popped up outside the factory to pose for pictures with workers wearing bright yellow hazard vests, declaring herself the true candidate of France’s workers.
“Everyone knows what side Emmanuel Macron is on – he is on the side of the corporations,” Le Pen told workers. “I am on the workers’ side, here in the car park, not in restaurants in Amiens.”
Macron, who hails from Amiens, later made his own visit to the factory, but was met with boos and shouts of “President Marine!”
In a tense exchange, the former economy minister told angry workers that the only reason Le Pen had come to Amiens was “because I’m here”.
He also said on Twitter that she spent “10 minutes with her supporters in a car park in front of the cameras”, whereas he had spent “an hour and a half with union representatives and no media”.
Le Pen, who is casting herself as the champion of the downtrodden, has sought to portray her rival, a former banker, as the candidate of “oligarchy” and big business.
The two will face off in a second round on May 7, with polls suggesting Macron is still a strong favourite to clinch the French presidency.