- Title: French election's "third man" bills himself workers' champion at big rally
- Date: 10th December 2016
- Summary: PARIS, FRANCE (DECEMBER 10, 2016) (REUTERS) (SOUNDBITE) (French) 50 YEAR-OLD PARISIAN, MATHILDE LE VEZIEL, SAYING: "He is young, he's not been in politics for thirty years, and he has ideas which are a bit different from all the ideas you hear which are always the same. I think he can bring something new."
- Embargoed: 25th December 2016 21:14
- Keywords: Macron rally meeting France politics presidential election
- Location: PARIS, FRANCE
- City: PARIS, FRANCE
- Country: France
- Reuters ID: LVA0045CAWOXZ
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: France's popular former economy minister, Emmanuel Macron, styling himself the workers' champion, drew 15,000 supporters to a rally in Paris on Saturday (December 10) which reinforced his image as the dark horse in the race for the Elysee.
The 38-year-old Macron, once a protege of President Francois Hollande, staged what his supporters called a "tour de force" at the rally, brushing off criticism by his erstwhile Socialist allies for running as an independent in the 2017 election.
Macron has refused pleas - most recently by former prime minister Manuel Valls who is seeking the Socialist party ticket - to join in the Left's attempts to decide on a single candidate for next spring's election.
He signaled on Saturday he would not change his mind.
As a comparatively fresh face in a field crowded with old hands - he has never held elected office and only became a minister in August 2014 - Macron has managed to attract voters like Mathilde Le Veziel who say that France needs change.
"He is young, he's not been in politics for thirty years, and he has ideas which are a bit different from all the ideas you hear which are always the same. I think he can bring something new," she told Reuters.
The former investment banker pledged to cut taxes on workers and employers, while raising taxes on income from investments and wealthy pensioners.
"Work is what gives us a place in society, it's what gives us our dignity, frees us, gives us confidence in ourselves, allows us to shape ourselves, to succeed and to make others succeed, our families, to be enterprising and to be happy," he said.
"Because I want to be the candidate of fairness, I am the candidate of work," he added.
France's stubbornly high unemployment rate is likely to be one of the key issues in a campaign in which the polls show the mainstream Socialist party candidate will struggle to make an impact.
With a pledge that he is "neither on the left nor on the right", Macron hopes to attract voters from across the political spectrum.
"He exudes something, he dares and so he makes other people want to dare in turn," supporter Maryse Servol said.
The large turnout on a cold evening eclipsed last weekend's modest gathering by the Socialists when party grandees struggled to re-energise the Left's faithful at a convention that drew only 2,500 supporters.
Opinion polls put Macron consistently ahead of Socialist candidates such as Valls who will compete for the party ticket in two-stage primaries in late January.
But they also suggest he will be beaten into the second round by the far right's Marine Le Pen and newly nominated right wing candidate Francois Fillon.
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