“I’m here, and I’m determined to fight,” the 44-year-old president said during his visit to the town of Denain, adding that he heard the concerns of people who struggle to find a job and earn more money. “They need to be reassured,” he said.

French President Emmanuel Macron declared Monday that he wants to “convince” a broad range of French voters to back his centrist vision, kicking off a two-week battle against far-right challenger Marine Le Pen ahead of the country’s presidential runoff vote, AP reports.

Le Pen, meanwhile, is ready for the fight, planning to highlight rising prices for energy and food that have hit poorer households especially hard recently as Macron has focused his efforts on seeking diplomatic solutions to the war in Ukraine.

The two candidates came out on top in Sunday’s first-round presidential vote, setting up an April 24 replay of their duel in 2017. Macron trounced Le Pen five years ago in the presidential runoff but all opinion polls show the leader of the National Rally is much closer this time to a potential win.

The French election outcome will have wide international influence as Europe struggles to contain the havoc wreaked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Macron has strongly backed European Union sanctions on Russia while Le Pen has worried about their impact on French living standards. Macron also is a firm supporter of NATO and of close collaboration among the EU’s 27 members.

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