Less than a week before France heads to the polls, independent Emmanuel Macron and far-right nationalist Marine Le Pen are kicking off their final campaigning with rallies in Paris. Protests are expected against Le Pen.
While various opinion polls show a tightening of leading positions, as well as a great deal of indecision among the electorate, the final sprint to Sunday's French presidential election will be crucial ahead of midnight on Friday, which marks the official end of campaigning.
An Opinionway poll published on Monday sees independent Emmanuel Macron and far-right nationalist Marine Le Pen making the second round of the presidential election, each with 22 percent of the vote.
A runoff against Macron on May 7, however, would see Le Pen lose, as she would only attract 36 percent of voters against Macron's 64.
Independent Macron to convince voters 'on the ground'
Macron, candidate of "En Marche!" (Forward!), was scheduled on Monday to hold his largest rally to date in a room big enough to hold some 20,000 people.
The venue is located close to France's Economy Ministry, whose office Macron occupied for two years before leaving the Socialist government to launch his presidential campaign.
According to his entourage, Macron's speech on Monday afternoon was to be preceded by "short statements from people from the movement, new faces from civil society."
As the youngest candidate, the 39-year-old plans in the final week to convince voters "on the ground" and "in the workplace."
Unity not division
The movement has announced some 1,000 events every day over the working week, including 163 public meetings with elected representatives and at least four major national meetings.
"Emmanuel Macron wants to be one of the only candidates to not play on fears, antagonisms, or divisions, but rather on unity," one campaign worker said.
This "message of assembly" on Monday came as somewhat of a response to National Front (FN) leader Le Pen, who on Saturday delivered one of her harshest speeches, held in the southwestern city of Perpignan.
Targeting Macron, Le Pen said: "With Mr Macron, it will be Islamism on the march, communitarianism on the move!"
Several protest groups had vowed to disrupt Le Pen's speech on Monday evening. Already on Saturday, around 400 demonstrators gathered close to the 6,000-seat venue where she's expected to present her speech.
A large FN rally is also scheduled for Wednesday in the southeastern city of Marseille, where counter-demonstrations are also planned.
Pre-election scandal in FN camp
Faced with the recent surge of far-left Jean-Luc Mélenchon and the scandal-ridden campaign of conservative François Fillon, the FN frontwoman will be hoping to regain momentum over the final five days.
Asked by DW on Monday if Le Pen intended on proposing any policies at Monday's speech, an FN press contact who declined to be named said: "Why would she announce policies? She's not in power."
"This is a presidential election. The candidate decides that, not the party," the spokesperson added when asked whether the far-right populist party had decided on any proposed policies to announce on Monday.
Le Pen's polling numbers have dipped in recent weeks amid a party funding scandal, but most polls still concur that she's among the three contenders to reach the second-round runoff on May 7.
As recently as Friday, French judges called on the European Parliament to strip Le Pen of her parliamentary immunity in order to enable prosecutors to investigate her alleged misuse of European Union funds to pay for party assistants.