Marine Le Pen, France’s far-right presidential candidate, has formally launched a campaign echoing many of the themes that propelled Donald Trump to the White House.
HIGHLIGHTS: LE PEN’S COMMITMENTS
- Six months to renegotiate the EU or go for “Frexit”
- Leave the euro
- Reject international trade treaties
- Tax employers who hire foreigners
- Boost security defence
- Expel foreigners who have been condemned in court
- Close all mosques suspected of “radical Islam” links
- Expel foreigners monitored by intelligence for “radical Islam” links
- Slash immigration, curb asylum requests
- Allow referendums on issues called for by 500,000 people
- 10 percent income tax cut for low earners
Addressing hundreds of supporters on Sunday, at the close of her National Front gathering in Lyon, staunchly anti-immigration, anti-globalisation Le Pen said that Trump’s recent US election win and Britain’s vote to leave the European Union had given the French a “reason to vote”.
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Envisioning a thriving nation “made in France”, the 48-year-old said she is the “people’s candidate” as she outlined her aspirations for a state with its own borders to guard, its own currency to spend, its own defence and its identity unchanged by immigrants, refugees and globalisation.
A leader in early polls for the April 23 and May 7 elections, Le Pen drew loud cheers of support when she said that Islam is “not compatible with French values”, before concluding that France was threatened by twin “totalitarianisms”: economic globalisation and “Islamic fundamentalism”.
“We are at a crossroad … This election is a choice of civilisation,” she said, asking whether her three children and other young citizens would have the rights and culture of the current generation. “Will they even speak our French language?”
Al Jazeera’s Natacha Butler, reporting from Lyon, said: “Le Pen is promising to favour French citizens in areas such as social housing and education. Le Pen’s message here is that France is being destroyed by immigration, by globalisation and that she’s the person to fix it.
“She says she wants to give France back to the French. She’s certainly presenting herself as the anti-elite, anti-establishment candidate and feels the climate is favourable to that after Trump in the US and Brexit.”
Turning to the EU, Le Pen said she wanted to “release France from the tyranny” of Brussels. If the other members of the bloc refused to accept large-scale reforms, she vowed to call a referendum on membership within six months of taking office.
On Saturday, Le Pen published a list of 144 “commitments” built around putting France first.
This is Le Pen’s second bid for the presidency after placing third in 2012.
Fillon’s fake jobs scandal
Francois Fillon, a former conservative prime minister and the candidate just two weeks ago considered the most likely to beat Le Pen and win, has seen his support plummet as French prosecutors investigate possibly fictitious parliamentary aide jobs once held by his wife and two children.
Polls suggest Le Pen is likely to pass the first round “comfortably”, said our correspondent. “But in the second round, voters might be more likely to [choose] her rival [Fillon], who is more mainstream.”
Conservative MPs visited their constituencies this weekend to stem the damage surrounding Fillon.
Former budget minister Emmanuel Macron, who rebelled against the Socialist Party to strike out on his own, could end up facing Le Pen in the second-round vote.
Macron, a former investment banker, held on Sunday a major rally in the southeastern city of Lyon, thanking crowds for their “enthusiasm”.
Also running for the French presidency are leftists Jean-Luc Melenchon and Benoit Hamon.
Renaud Girard, a French journalist, told Al Jazeera: “Marine Le Pen does not have any ally. When the left comes to power in France, it’s because it has made an alliance with the far left. But in France, the right and the far right do not agree to make an alliance … I don’t see for the time being Le Pen being able to find a support in the right.”
Fillon and Macron, Girard said, were more likely to form alliances that could propel them during the final round of voting.