With the vote set for April 10, French President Emmanuel Macron finds himself on the defensive, with far-right leader Marine Le Pen staging a comeback in the polls.
French President Emmanuel Macron has called on tens of thousands of cheering but increasingly nervous supporters to help him win a second term as he held his first election campaign rally just a week from the start of voting.
"The mobilisation is now, the battle is now!" Macron concluded a two-and-a-half hour speech at a stadium west of the capital on Saturday.
"It's a battle between progress and turning back, a battle between patriotism and Europe, and nationalism."
According to polls, far-right rival Marine Le Pen is gathering momentum and threatening what once seemed an almost unassailable position of strength for Macron, a pro-business centrist elected in 2017.
The 44-year-old drew an estimated 30,000 people for a gathering styled on sports events that saw Macron enter the room to pumping music and fireworks before taking to a stage set up like a boxing ring in the middle of the floor.
The centrist only declared his intention to run again at the last possible moment last month and has been distracted by the war in Ukraine.
Le Pen meanwhile has been working on a low-key grassroots campaign focused on concerns about rising prices that have dented household incomes.
"Despite the crises, we never gave up. Despite the crises we honoured our promises," Macron said during the first part of a speech that defended his achievements.
READ MORE: Macron to seek second term to save France from 'world's disorders'
He listed them as lowering unemployment to "its lowest level in 15 years", cutting taxes to boost incomes, along with investments in public services.
To shouts of "Macron, President!" he also detailed his programme for a second term that would include benefits reform and a rise in the retirement age to 65.
Among those present, most expressed confidence that Macron would prevail despite the final-week dynamic that appears to be favouring Le Pen.
Two new polls published Saturday suggested Macron and Le Pen would finish top in the first round on April 10, with Macron triumphing in the run-off on April 24 by 53-47 percent.
"Of course Marine Le Pen can win," Macron's former prime minister Edouard Philippe warned in an interview with the Le Parisien daily posted online Thursday.
The increasingly thin margin of victory projected for Macron has led many supporters to call on him to throw himself more into campaigning, with aides promising stops around the country next week.
READ MORE: Ahead of election, Macron bets on rosy French economy
Macron's opponents have been attacking him relentlessly on the basis of record spending on consultants such as McKinsey during his five-year term, which was revealed in an investigation by the Senate last month.
"We need a lot more enthusiasm among grassroots supporters," Jean-David Levy, a 58-year-old teacher, told AFP before Macron took his position on stage. "We need to feel a sense of excitement."