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Obama backs Macron for appealing to ‘people’s hopes'

Screengrab FRANCE 24

Former US President Barack Obama on Thursday endorsed centrist Emmanuel Macron for France's presidential election in a video message in which he praised Macron for appealing "to people's hopes and not their fears".

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The video clip, which runs for over a minute, features the former US president talking directly to camera and expressing his admiration for the 39-year-old former French economy minister who launched an independent political movement En Marche! (Onwards!) last year.

The unprecedented endorsement of a French presidential candidate by a former US president kicks off with a justification for what critics would call an interference in another country’s democratic election.

“I’m not planning to get involved in many elections now that I don’t have to run for office again,” said Obama. “But the French election is very important for the future of France and the values that we care so much about. Because the success of France matters to the entire world.”

After voicing his admiration for “the campaign Emmanuel Macron has run,” Obama noted that the French centrist candidate "has stood up for liberal values ... He is committed to a better future for the French people. He appeals to people's hopes and not their fears."

"I am supporting Emmanuel Macron to lead you forward," Obama said, concluding his statement with "En Marche!" (Onwards!) and "Vive la France!".

Campaign takes another ugly turn

Obama's statement came a day after Macron and his rival in Sunday's vote, far-right leader Marine Le Pen, clashed in a heated televised debate that saw the two candidates trading barbs and insults for over two hours.

With just days to go before Sunday’s vote, the French presidential race took another ugly turn Thursday, when Macron lodged a legal complaint with the prosecutor’s office over allegations made by Le Pen during the debate that he held an offshore account.

Acting on the complaint, the French prosecutor’s office has opened an investigation on suspicion that fake news had been circulated with the aim of influencing voting in the election.

Macron has denied he holds any such account.

Despite the latest allegations, Macron is widely seen as the favourite to beat Le Pen in Sunday's runoff vote. Opinion polls show Macron leading around 20 points ahead of his far-right rival.

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