French far-right leader launches presidential race
PARIS — French far-right candidate Marine Le Pen said Sunday her anti-immigration views and vows to leave the euro represent the “silent majority” as her campaign for next year’s presidential vote geared up.
Ahead of her first major campaign rally Sunday in the northeastern city of Metz, Le Pen railed against the French political elite in an interview with Le Journal du Dimanche and said France needed a new “revolution”.
“I represent the silent majority. Those no one wants to hear, who are not spoken about on television, who do not demonstrate, who are too common for the elite,” she said.
“I am calling them to a revolution — a patriotic, peaceful and democratic revolution,” she said.
Le Pen took over the leadership of the National Front (FN) in January from her father Jean-Marie, who stunned observers by making it into the second round of the presidential election in 2002 despite accusations of racism.
While sharing her father’s far-right views, the telegenic 43-year-old has sought to soften the party’s image and is seen by many analysts as more electable.
Observers were shocked in March when a poll showed Le Pen beating her opponents in the first round of next spring’s presidential vote but she has since fallen into third place.
A poll by firm BVA released last week showed Le Pen taking 17 percent of the vote, behind Socialist candidate Francois Hollande with 35 percent and President Nicolas Sarkozy with 24.5 percent.
In the interview Le Pen said she would limit immigration to 10,000 people a year and that efforts to save the euro should be dropped and France return to the franc.
“I have always said the euro will collapse,” she said. “If it still exists when I come to power, I will bring together our European partners and propose an organised exit. France will return to the franc.”
She said the eurozone debt crisis had exposed the risks of the common currency and that it would play a major role in the election.
“As I expected, the election campaign is setting itself up around Europe. I am calling on all sovereigntist and patriotic forces to support me against the European federalism being defended by Nicolas Sarkozy and Francois Hollande.”
Le Pen also said she would not support either of her main rivals in an expected second round of the election. “For me Nicolas Sarkozy and Francois Hollande represent exactly the same policies,” she said.
Her 83-year-old father, a former paratrooper, founded the National Front in 1972 and led it until his retirement earlier this year.
Under Le Pen senior the Front never broke into government, and he was shunned by other parties, but he succeeded in forcing the mainstream right to compete with him on immigration and law and order issues.
France will vote in the first round of a presidential election in April and potentially a second round in May, followed by parliamentary elections in June.