Why is French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron being likened to Jean-Claude Van Damme?

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 28 March, 2017, 12:07pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 28 March, 2017, 8:03pm

Marine Le Pen has taken the French election campaign to new level, likening her main rival Emmanuel Macron to a Belgian actor best known for his martial-arts exploits and his odd and vacuous sayings.

She told a rally in Lille on Sunday: “He’s the Jean-Claude Van Damme of politics, because no one understands what he says or what he does.”

While over the past weeks top candidates in the French race have accused each other of being corrupt and dishonest, and said their policies will spread chaos and economic destruction, they’ve steered clear of personal attacks. The gloves are now off — at least for the two front runners.

With polls showing Le Pen and Macron far ahead of their rivals in the April 23 first round of voting, and therefore the favorites to qualify for the May 7 run-off, they have increasingly trained their fire on each other. During a weekend visit to French overseas departments in the Indian Ocean, Macron said Le Pen “was telling lies” when she claimed she’d end illegal immigration.

Le Pen — and other candidates — has accused Macron of loosely picking policies from the left and the right, and being hazy about the details and costs of his program.

In the March 20 debate between the top five candidates, after Macron had spoken of the need for “structured partnership” with Germany and France’s “secular history” with the US, Le Pen interrupted him, saying: “You spoke for seven minutes, and I can’t summarise what you said, it’s an utter void.”

Enter the “Muscles from Brussels.”

The 56-year-old star of Bloodsport and Double Impact is well-known for his outlandish proclamations, ranging from the simple (“A woman who is pregnant, she’s aware that she’s expecting a child,”) to the more esoteric: “I am fascinated by air. If you remove air, birds would fall from the sky. Planes too. But you can’t touch it.”

Macron has hit back at claims his positions are unclear, pointing to what he says is a detailed platform on his website. He defended himself during the debate: “Unlike you, I want a policy that’s for a strong France within Europe, not made up of promises that can’t be afforded.”

And he looked almost satisfied March 22 when he was booed by French mayors after telling their congress he’d cut a tax used to fund local government.

“If politicians only come to tell people want they want to hear, then they aren’t much use,” he said.