The former US president has put his weight behind the centrist candidate, saying he appeals to people's hopes and not their fears." In a video statement, Barack Obama backed Emmanuel Macron's vision for European unity.
Former US President Barack Obama endorsed French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron in a video published on Thursday, saying the centrist politician appeals "to people's hopes and not their fears."
Macron, a former economy minister and investment banker, has positioned himself as the pro-EU candidate in France's heated presidential election, in contrast to far-right leader Marine Le Pen's populist campaign.
Le Pen has vowed to pull France out of the eurozone and hold a referendum on the country's membership in the EU, while Macron has doubled down on the merits of European unity and France's integrated role in the bloc.
"The French election is very important to the future of France and the values that we care so much about," Obama said in the video released by Macron's campaign.
"I have admired the campaign that Emmanuel Macron has run," he added. "He has stood up for liberal values. He put forward a vision for the important role that France plays in Europe and around the world. And he is committed to a better future for the French people."
The former president's endorsement is a stark contrast to US President Donald Trump's position in the French race. Trump has instead viewed Le Pen as the "strongest on borders, and she's the strongest on what's been going on in France," in an interview with AP news agency.
"Whoever is the toughest on radical Islamic terrorism, and whoever is the toughest at the borders, will do well in the election," Trump added.
'Not planning to get involved'
Obama's endorsement marks his first step back into international politics since vacating the White House in January. However, he said that he doesn't expect to involve himself often in elections.
"I'm not planning to get involved in many elections now that I don't have to run for office again, but the French election is very important to the future of France and the values that we care so much about. Because the success of France matters to the entire world," he said.
Following a tense debate on Wednesday, polls show French citizens found Macron more convincing than his rival Le Pen. The debate marked the candidates' final campaign push before Saturday's election silence in which all campaigning is banned.
Macron has maintained a roughly 20-percentage-point leader over Le Pen, but analysts have warned of celebrating victory to early given pollsters failed predictions in the US 2016 presidential elections and "Brexit" vote.
ls/bw (Reuters, AP)