Wednesday

24th May 2017

Le Pen tones down anti-EU stance to woo voters

  • Le Pen said that she was "the candidate of those who get up early" - a slogan from Nicolas Sarkozy's winning campaign in 2007.

French far-right leader Marine Le Pen said over the weekend that leaving the euro is no longer a "prerequisite" for her policies, in an attempt to reach out to voters on both the left and right.

In the latest version of her programme ahead of Sunday's (7 May) run-off of the presidential election, she said that she still wanted to create a French national currency and a "European common currency", but that "the calendar will be adapted to priorities and immediate challenges".

The programme was updated after Le Pen signed a "government agreement" with Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, a sovereignist candidate who obtained 4.70 percent in the first round on 23 April.

Le Pen said that Dupont-Aignan would be her prime minister if she was elected on Sunday.

In an interview with Le Parisien newspaper on Sunday, she said France would have "a national currency as all the other countries, and together we will have a common currency," which she said would be "only for the big companies that do international trade".

"Voila, it is as simple as that," she said, adding that the euro was a "millstone".

In March, Le Pen said that 70 percent of her programme depended on leaving the euro. But on Monday, the number two of her National Front party, Florian Philippot, said that "we can do a lot without leaving the euro".

Another FN leader, Louis Aliot, who is also Le Pen's partner, said that "the purpose is the revision of the [European] treaties. The goal is to reorientate the EU".

As fellow party members struggled to explain the FN's new euro policy, Le Pen avoided the topic when she spoke to some 25,000 people near Paris on Monday.

While leaving the euro and organising a referendum on France's EU membership were, until now, the core of her programme and speeches, she only said that there would be an "arm wrestle with Brussels to take back our sovereignty".

In effect, she wants to renegotiate France's membership, but also the architecture of the EU.

However, while she had said until recently that she would negotiate for six months before holding a referendum, her niece and MP, Marion Marechal-Le Pen, said on Saturday that talks could start only in 2018 and take "months or years".

Dangerous project

On Saturday, the outgoing socialist president, Francois Hollande, accused Le Pen and her new ally Dupont-Aignan of "hiding" a "dangerous project".

"Everything [Le Pen] proposes puts France out of the eurozone and the EU," he pointed out in Brussels after an EU summit.

He warned that "there would be no negotiations" and that France's EU exit would be "acknowledged" because France "would no longer respect" its commitments.

He said that Le Pen and Dupont-Aignan were "concealing" their true intention "because they know that the French don't want that their country to leave the EU and deprive itself from the euro".

In a poll published in March by Le Figaro newspaper and the Robert Schuman Foundation, a think-tank on EU affairs, only 28 percent of people wanted France to leave the euro.

The toning down of Le Pen's anti-EU stance is part of a strategy to re-orientate her campaign towards the economy and social issues, in order to woo voters from the left and also from the right.

It follows a decision last week to stand down from the National Front leadership and remove any reference to the party on her campaign poster and leaflets. She said she was now the "people's candidate", not her party's candidate.

Morbid continuity

On Monday the far-right leader, who is still 20 points behind in the latest opinion polls, attacked her opponent, centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron, whom she said represents the "morbid continuity" of the current political system and policies.

"The adversary of the French people is still the world of finance and this time it has a name, it has a face, it was a party, it is a candidate, its name is Emmanuel Macron," she said, in a clear reference to left-wing voters' concerns.

In 2012, Hollande said in his winning campaign that finance was his "enemy". The statement was later used against him by critics who said he betrayed his promises and followed liberal policies - with Macron as his economic adviser and the then economy minister.

Le Pen insisted that security was "what matters most". She promised to reduce migration flows, establish nationality preferences for jobs, and economic protectionism.

For right-wing voters, Le Pen said that she was "the candidate of those who get up early" - one of the slogans of Nicolas Sarkozy's winning campaign in 2007. She was also caught repeating word-for-word parts of a speech by conservative candidate Francois Fillon from last month.

Le Pen's project "leads to one thing: economic war, misery and war," Macron said in a meeting in Paris on Monday.

"It's a one way ticket," he told some 10,000 supporters.

Macron is the favourite for Sunday's second round as an anti-Le Pen candidate, but is still failing to gather strong support for his own programme. He said that he was the candidate of "the optimists". And using an expression usually used by the FN against its opponents, he said that Le Pen's party was "the anti-France party".

"The battle will be violent," he said about the coming days of the campaign. "Now at stake is the political, intellectual and moral legacy of the French Republic."

France still anxious over possibility of Le Pen win

Despite opinion polls that place centrist Macron well ahead of the far-right leader Le Pen in the 7 May presidential run-off, doubts are emerging about his capacity to unite the French people around his candidacy.

Analysis

French election run-off: Far right vs. EU

The run-off of the French presidential election will pit a pro-EU social-liberal Macron against anti-EU Marine Le Pen. Macron is likely to win but far-right support is higher than ever.

Martin Schulz, down but not out against Merkel

After the Social Democrats' crushing defeat in its party leader's home state of North Rhine-Westphalia, the odds seem stacked against them for the rapidly approaching federal election in September.

How online activists tried to harm Macron

Trojan horses, smoke screens, framed news, and fake news - the final days of the French election saw an outburst of online violence, most of it against Macron.

Schulz fails to beat Merkel in German home state

Former EU parliament leader, Martin Schulz, says the defeat of his social-democrats in North Rhine-Westphalia is "difficult". The elections showed that a "Schulz effect" does not (yet) exist.

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