(JTA) — France’s chief rabbi joined a Muslim and Christian faith leaders in an unusual endorsement of the centrist presidential candidate Emannuel Macron against the far-right hopeful Marine Le Pen.
Haim Korsia’s office issued the endorsement Thursday, a day after a remarkably acrimonious televised debate between the two candidates ahead of the May 7 runoff. Titled “Call to Vote for Mr. Emmanuel Macron,” it was co-signed by Pastor François Clavairoly, president of the Protestant Federation of France, and Anouar Kbibech, president of the French Council of the Muslim Faith.
An explicit show of support for any particular candidate is highly unusual for all three clergymen.
“Fully aware that our roles require us to be non-partisan, we are, however, first and foremost responsible citizens and therefore openly are calling for a vote in favor of Emmanuel Macron,” the three men wrote.
The debate was heated for most of its 160 minutes, with both candidates throwing personal insults at each other.
Le Pen called her 39-year-old rival “the candidate of unchecked globalization,” who is happy to sell off France’s assets and relinquish control of the country. Macron accused the 48-year-old leader of the National Front of being “the high priestess of fear,” saying she talked a lot but “proposed nothing.”
Le Pen accused her rival of being complacent about Islamic fundamentalism, while he said her plans played into the hands of terrorists and their desire for a “civil war.”
Polls predict Macron will beat Le Pen 60 percent to 40 percent on Sunday, but approximately 18 percent of voters said they are as of yet not fully decided.
National Front, which was founded in the 1970s by Marine Le Pen’s father, a Holocaust denier with convictions for inciting racial hatred against Jews, is considered anti-Islam for its plan to ban public prayer, limit the construction of mosques and impose a shutdown on immigration from Muslims countries.
Le Pen has vowed to ban the wearing both of Muslim garb and Jewish symbols in public if elected. She has distanced herself from the anti-Semitic rhetoric of her father, though she said earlier this month France was “not responsible” for the rounding up of Jews by French officers during the Nazi occupation.
“It is no longer enough to defeat National Front,’ the clergymen wrote in their statement. “We must remind [Frenchmen], speaking in one voice, the humanist foundations that animate us, and toward which we work today.”
Peace, they also wrote, “supersedes all other things and only a vote for Emmanuel Macron guarantees a France that is stronger for its history, confident in its future and its ability to shine throughout our world.”