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French President Emmanuel Macron speaks to the media in Brussels.

REUTERS/Johanna Geron

What We're Watching: Macron gets a boost, East Africa trade bloc welcomes DRC

Macron’s Ukraine boost

Less than two weeks before France’s presidential election, incumbent Emmanuel Macron has a nine-point lead ahead of far-right firebrand Marine Le Pen. The war in Ukraine has given Macron a chance to showcase his statesman bonafides, boosting his lead in the polls. He has spoken with Vladimir Putin many times over the past month and is trying to coordinate a humanitarian corridor for residents of Mariupol (though that seems to have failed). Macron’s critics say he’s used the war to avoid going head to head with rivals on domestic issues. Still, Macron isn’t popular. The centrist is seen by many as an aloof elitist detached from real people’s problems. What’s more, while unemployment is at a 13-year low, soaring food and fuel prices are fueling voter antipathy and, for some, apathy. A recent poll found that only one-third of French voters plan to cast their ballots. But with the left imploding and the far-right remaining divided, Macron wins by default (though the second-round runoff with Le Pen could be much closer than their 2017 face-off).

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