The Latest: Merkel: Absurd to suggest Macron ‘German poodle’


PARIS (AP) — The Latest on the French presidential election (all times local):

5:35 p.m.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel says that she hopes French centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron wins the presidential runoff, but rejected suggestions he would heed Germany’s bidding.

Asked in an interview with German media group RND whether Macron needed to prove he’s not a “German poodle,” Merkel said the term was “simply absurd.”

In the interview published Friday, Merkel said she didn’t have “the slightest doubt that Emmanuel Macron, if he’s elected, which I hope, will be a strong president.”

Merkel declined to say whether Germany would be willing to provide the European Union with further funds to support economic stability in France.

She said: “We will see, I can’t anticipate the discussion with the next French president.”

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4:15 p.m.

French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen is reaching from her far-right base across to the far left, urging voters who chose communist-linked Jean-Luc Melenchon in the first-round vote to support her in the runoff election.

Le Pen issued a video via Twitter on Friday urging Melenchon’s voters to “block” her centrist rival Emmanuel Macron, arguing that the former banker and government minister represents the status quo and “arrogant finance.”

Le Pen and Melenchon won a combined 40 percent of the vote in the first round after populist campaigns that tapped into widespread frustration with mainstream politics.

While they hold opposing views on immigration and social issues, Melenchon and Le Pen are both skeptical of the European Union, hostile to free-trade deals and promised to help workers hurt by globalization.

Melenchon is the only leading candidate from the first round who has not given guidance to his voters for the May 7 runoff.

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3:35 p.m.

Soccer great Zinedine Zidane says that the French should do anything they can to avoid having far-right candidate Marine Le Pen win the presidency.

Referring to Le Pen’s party, the Real Madrid coach and former France international says that he is “far from all these ideas, from this National Front. So we need to do everything to avoid this.”

Zidane, who was born in Marseille and comes from Algerian descent, took a similar stance when Jean-Marie Le Pen — Marine’s father — made it to the second round of the 2002 presidential election.

A former World Cup and European Championship winner, Zidane remains highly popular in France. He says the message “is the same, the one from 2002.”

Le Pen faces centrist Emmanuel Macron in the presidential runoff on May 7.

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1:35 p.m.

French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen is painting herself as David against rival Emmanuel Macron’s Goliath as she tries to overcome a poll gap and broaden her support base ahead of a May 7 runoff.

In an interview Friday with regional broadcasters France Bleu and France 3, Le Pen accused pro-business centrist Macron of being the candidate of the “oligarchy” and the elite.

Le Pen described Macron and France’s employers’ lobby, leading trade union and media magnates as “Goliath.” She added that “the love that we have for this country is the stone that David used against Goliath” to kill him in the biblical tale.

Le Pen has been courting the blue-collar vote, while Macron argues that France needs to make it easier for companies to hire.

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11:30 a.m.

Polish officials have dismissed as “populist” recent comments by French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron who said he will press for European Union sanctions on Warsaw if he is president.

Macron spoke with French regional daily “La Voix du Nord” after visiting a house appliances factory that is scheduled to move to Poland, where labor costs are cheaper.

He said he would take action on Poland, saying it infringes fundamental EU values and uses fiscal differences to its favor.

Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Konrad Szymanski said Friday Macron’s words were “pure populism” and violated the EU’s idea of a common market.

Government spokesman Rafal Bochenek said Poland objects to being used in France’s campaign ahead of the May 7 runoff between Macron and far-right Marine Le Pen

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9:30 a.m.

French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen’s far-right party is in new turmoil — its temporary leader is stepping down over allegations he expressed doubt about Nazi gas chambers.

National Front vice president Louis Aliot said on BFM television Friday that interim party leader Jean-Francois Jalkh is leaving his post because of comments reported in a 2000 interview.

Jalkh took over this week after Le Pen said she would step aside to concentrate on her campaign.

Aliot said that Jalkh is contesting allegations of Holocaust denial, a crime in France.

Le Pen has worked hard to detoxify the party, tainted by racism and anti-Semitism in the past. She faces centrist Emmanuel Macron in a highly charged presidential runoff May 7.

Macron is visiting the site of a Nazi massacre later Friday.