WASHINGTON — Former President Barack Obama formally endorsed centrist Emmanuel Macron to be France’s next president in a video released Thursday, days before voters choose between him and far-right rival Marine Le Pen in a high-stakes weekend contest.
“I want all of my friends in France to know how much I am rooting for your success. Because of how important this election is, I also want you to know that I am supporting Emmanuel Macron to lead you forward,” Obama said in English, before adding “En marche! Vive la France!” in French. En Marche (roughly “On the Move!” or “Let’s Go!”) is the name of Macron’s year-old political party.
This news comes two weeks after President Trump left no doubt that he preferred to see Le Pen win on Sunday, calling her the strongest candidate on immigration and terrorism.
Le Pen, who recently stepped down as leader of the National Front Party, has called the election a clash between “patriots and globalists” and suggested a referendum on France’s European Union membership. In a debate with Macron on Wednesday night, she declared that no matter the outcome this weekend, “France will be led by a woman, either me or Madame Merkel,” a reference to German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Without ever naming Le Pen, Obama alluded to tensions that have shaped France’s election, repeatedly referring to the values at stake.
“I’m not planning to get involved in many elections now that I don’t have to run for office again,” he said. “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.”
Macron “has stood up for liberal values,” Obama said. “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. He appeals to people’s hopes and not their fears.”
It was the second time Obama appeared in a message on Macron’s behalf. A few weeks ago, the candidate posted a video of Obama advising him by telephone to campaign relentlessly up until the final hours and wishing him good luck. A spokesman for the former president declined to say at the time whether Obama knew that the telephone call would be used by Macron in a political ad, but dryly noted that the video was “unusual.” The spokesman, Kevin Lewis, also had said that “an endorsement was not the purpose of the call, as President Obama is not making any formal endorsement in advance of the runoff election on Sunday.”
Yahoo News reached out to Lewis about the new video.
Obama had also waded into Britain’s debate about whether or not to vote to leave the European Union, warning that doing so would hurt relations with the United States, only to have British voters endorse Brexit. For his part, Trump proclaimed himself “Mr. Brexit” after the vote.
The video emerged a day after a top strategist for former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, Tad Devine, urged French voters to support Macron over Le Pen.
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