French President Emmanuel Macron warned on Sunday that the “far-right leader Marine Le Pen” could come to power.

Macron also suggested that he should have been more involved in presenting his unpopular pension reform to the country.

In a statement to Le Parisien newspaper, the 45-year-old joined others across the French political spectrum in warning that “the anti-immigration” Le Pen could come to power in the next presidential election in 2027.

She is seen as the biggest political winner from the current turmoil in France which was caused by Macron’s decision to raise the retirement age, which sparked three months of protests and strikes as well as fears for French democracy.

Marine Le Pen will come to power if we are unable to respond to the country’s challenges and if we introduce a habit of lying or denying reality, Macron told the newspaper.

He has faced a storm of criticism after forcing the pensions bill through the lower house of parliament without a vote using a controversial constitutional right.

According to opinion polls, two-thirds of voters oppose raising the retirement age from 62 to 64, with there also not appearring to be a parliament majority before Macron’s government triggered Article 49.3 of the constitution to force it through.

Macron has kept a low profile since the beginning of the year, leaving Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne to be the external face of the reform.

Perhaps the mistake was that I was not sufficiently present to give the reform substance and carry it myself, Macron says now, while adding that he still had “trust” in Borne, whose job is considered to be at stake.

After signing the law earlier this month, Macron hit the road last week to meet with voters in eastern and southern France, where he was booed and booed.

Angry protesters hounded him and his ministers, banging pots and pans throughout the week, an ancient French protest technique that is growing in popularity.

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