(PARIS) — Former U.S. President Barack Obama spoke to French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron on Thursday, but “an endorsement was not the purpose of the call,” Obama’s spokesman said in a statement.
However, “President Obama remains deeply committed” to France “as a close ally of the United States and as a leader on behalf of liberal values in Europe and around the world,” Obama spokesman Kevin Lewis said.
The French will go to the polls on Sunday for a first-round vote that could be as consequential as the U.K.’s Brexit vote and the election of President Donald Trump.
Lewis said that Obama would not be “making any formal endorsement” before the vote.
A spokesperson for Macron confirmed the call, saying, “Obama talked about his strong links with France and the importance of the ties between the two countries.”
“They also discussed about the future of Europe and the progressive values that they both share,” Macron’s spokesperson said.
Sunday’s vote will see Macron up against 10 other candidates, some with populist, anti-establishment leanings.
Macron and far-right candidate Marine Le Pen are widely seen as front-runners, according to European media reports, and the race is considered very competitive.
Macron, 39, is a former banker who served as his country’s economy minister until 2016.
Le Pen, 48, is a lawyer by training and took leadership of her National Front party from her father in 2011. She is currently a member of the European Parliament.
Le Pen has promised to “put France back in order” by holding a referendum on EU membership, restricting immigration, increasing border controls and giving French citizens a “national priority” for jobs by taxing businesses that hire foreign workers.
If no one among the 11 candidates wins more than 50 percent of the vote, then the top two vote getters will compete in a runoff on May 7.
Analysts say a runoff vote will likely take place.
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