Tuesday

23rd May 2017

France's Le Pen takes aim at EU in presidential bid launch

  • Le Pen vows to free France from "financial and Islamic fundamentalism" (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)

Far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen promised to take France out of the EU and Nato as she kicked off her presidential campaign in Lyon over the weekend.

Le Pen told supporters on Sunday (5 February) she would give France its freedom back, and said: "Financial globalisation and Islamist globalisation are helping each other out. Those two ideologies aim to bring France to its knees."

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In a manifesto published at the beginning of the two-day rally Le Pen listed 144 "commitments" to France.

She promised to leave the eurozone and the integrated command structure on Nato.

Le Pen also vowed to hold a referendum on EU membership unless European partners agree to roll back integration to a loose coalition of nation states with neither a single currency nor a border-free area.

She also pledged to put taxes on imports and on job contracts of foreigners, lower income tax and the retirement age.

The manifesto called for certain rights, like free education and social housing, to be reserved to French citizens, and promised 15,000 more police and to expel irregular immigrants.

“What is at stake in this election is the continuity of France as a free nation, our existence as a people,” Le Pen told her supporters.

In a trademark policy she also lashed out at what she called Islamic fundamentalism. She told her supporters it was a "yoke" France could no longer live under, saying no dignified French person could accept veils, mosques and street prayers.

Le Pen hopes to cash in on the populist political momentum and to score on Trump-like upset win in May.

Unpredictable

The 48-year-old daughter of National Front founder Jean-Marie Le Pen is likely to win the most votes the first round of the presidential race on 23 April, according to opinion polls.

But the polls suggest she will lose to a mainstream candidate in the 7 May run-off.

The race has been thrown into turmoil since centre-right candidate Francois Fillon became embroiled in a scandal over money paid to his relatives for tasks they never performed. He denies any wrongdoing.

Some members of The Republicans have called for him to quit the race, but there is no new candidate and it is unclear how the conservatives could select one, since they have already held their primary.

Fillon had promised deregulation and called for a dialogue with Russia, arguing that sanctions against Moscow are "pointless".

Macron hits back

Centrist former economy minister Emmanuel Macron has surged in the polls amid Fillon's travails and the decision of the Socialists to field a hard-left candidate.

Macron, whose party is called En Marche (On The Move), also held a rally in Lyon on Saturday promising to unite a divided France.

He took on Le Pen's divisive and anti-establishment rhetoric, saying the far-right leader does not speak in the name of the people, and betrays France's core ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity.

"Some today pretend to be talking in the name of the people, but they are just ventriloquists," he said.

"They betray liberty by shrinking our horizons, they betray equality by stating that some are more equal than others, they betray fraternity because they hate faces that don’t look like theirs," Macron told a cheering crown.

However, he has been vague on specific policies and has yet to publish a campaign manifesto.

On Sunday, he said he aimed to revive France’s economy through innovation, more funding for education, cutting bureaucracy and relaxing labour laws.

He also pledged to raise France's defence spending to 2 percent of GDP and put more police on the streets.

Macron had earlier spoken out against closing borders in Europe, advocated for a closer alliance with Germany, a stronger economic and monetary union to stand up against the dollar, and for a new EU road map to specify priorities.

National Front party officials called the former investment banker the candidate of "international capitalism" at the FN rally.

Far-right groups pledge allegiance ahead of elections

Far-right leaders Le Pen, Wilders, Petry and others gathered in Koblenz in the hope of gaining political momentum ahead of national elections this year. The event was met with thousands of protestors.

Le Pen wants to 'do away' with EU

The far-right presidential candidate said that she would create a "Europe of free nations", while taking France out of Nato command and "tie up" Russia to Europe.

Le Pen used 'fake' EU parliament jobs

A leaked EU anti-fraud office report says French far-right leader, Marine Le Pen, had her bodyguard and personal assistant paid by the EU parliament for jobs they did not do.

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.

Austria heading for snap elections

Foreign minister Kurz has taken leadership of the conservative party in what could lead to an alliance with the far-right.

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