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French election runoff: Merkel pitches Macron over Le Pen again

Angela Merkel has reiterated her support for French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron. Latest polls show pro-EU Macron holding a strong lead over his far-right rival Marine Le Pen.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has made another pitch for frontrunner Emmanuel Macron days before he faces the anti-immigrant candidate Marine Le Pen in a runoff for the presidency.

"Naturally, it is and remains the decision of the French voters, which I won't interfere with," Merkel told Cologne-based daily 'Stadt-Anzeiger'. "However, I would be very pleased if Emmanuel Macron were to win, because he stands for consistently pro-European policy." Merkel, who received Macron in Berlin in March and believes he could be a "strong president for France," added that "his victory would be a good sign for the political center, whose strength we would like to maintain here in Germany, as well."

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Former investment banker and government minister Macron describes himself as "neither right nor left," and founded the independent 'En Marche' party ahead of the election.

Read: What Le Pen and Macron stand for
In an historic vote, Macron and Le Pen narrowly emerged as the preferred of 11 presidential candidates in April. It was the first time that neither candidate in the second round had come from one of the mainstream parties. Macron emerged on top in the April 23 first-round vote, edging Le Pen by under three points.

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Tight race

Many in France continue to mistrust Macron after he endorsed a series labor "reforms" that favored businesses over workers while serving as incumbent President Francois Hollande's economy minister from 2014 to 2016. Still, Le Pen's euroskepticism has also proved a turnoff for many voters. Supporters of the candidates faced off in May Day rallies Monday.

On Wednesday, the candidates will square off one last time in a two-hour TV debate, with much at stake for both contenders. Commentators expect Le Pen to hammer home her tried-and-true themes of security and "French identity," while Macron will likely make broad pitches to the political center.

mkg/rt (AFP, dpa, AP)

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