PARIS - The war in Ukraine has disrupted the French presidential campaign, but incumbent President Emmanuel Macron has benefited in many ways.
As the French president made another round of phone calls in an attempt to secure peace between Ukraine and Russia on Monday, his political opponents watched from the sidelines.
Russia's attack on Ukraine comes just as Macron is expected to officially announce his re-election bid, marking the start of the final leg of the presidential campaign. The French will go to the polls on April 10 in the first round of elections, but while his opponents campaigned for weeks and pushed their policy proposals, Macron kept his cards close to his chest and carefully planned an ultra- quick. .
It is unclear what the final weeks of the campaign will look like as all sides have been forced to change their political strategies and cancel rallies due to the war.
However, recent polls suggest the French president is gaining support in the wake of the crisis. A Harris Interactive poll gave him 27% of the vote and another from Ifop puts him at 28%, around 10 percentage points ahead of far-right Marine Le Pen, who is currently in second place for the first round.
Insiders in the camps of Macron's rivals say they are struggling to find angles to attack the French president.
"We cannot attack Macron when he represents France on the international stage," said Le Pen's deputy campaign manager Jean-Philippe Tanguy. "There is always a touch of theatricality in politics, but when the circumstances are so serious, we are not going to start small controversies."
Macron's lead in the polls came despite slashing his national calendar drastically and delegating visits to Prime Minister Jean Castex. On Saturday, Macron spent just two hours at France's premier agricultural show, a must-attend event for presidential candidates.
Several news outlets also reported on Monday that Macron's first campaign event on Saturday in Marseille would likely be canceled.
The French president struggled to stay afloat as his political rivals beat him for a place in the second round - and things are unlikely to change significantly, despite Macron announcing his candidacy ahead of authorities this week, supposed deadline for presidential candidates.
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"We will not be able to hold large, noisy, forward-looking rallies while a war is going on," said a spokesperson for Macron's La République en Marche party. "The tone [of the campaign] will be more festive, less assertive, although we still want to advertise on the theme of France after the [COVID-19] crisis."
The French president's decision to suspend some campaign commitments has been met with gritted teeth in opposition parties. "[Macron] will use war to avoid campaigning much like he used the pandemic," Tanguy said.
A Socialist Party official said: "It means he can present himself as the father of the nation and even approach the election as a tacit renewal of his mandate."