Thursday 8 December 2016

Le Pen could be France’s next president, warns PM

Henry Samuel in Paris

Published 18/11/2016 | 02:30

Marine Le Pen
Marine Le Pen

Marine Le Pen could win France’s upcoming presidential elections in the wake of Donald Trump’s shock US victory, French prime minister Manuel Valls warned yesterday.

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His comments came as Ms Le Pen, leader of the far-Right Front National, suffered a political setback after a French court ruled that her estranged father Jean-Marie, known for his anti-Semitic outbursts, must remain the party’s honorary president.

With France contemplating the fallout of Mr Trump’s triumph, the French Socialist premier became the latest top Gallic politician to declare that all bets were off for next May’s elections.

Current opinion polls suggest that Ms Le Pen will come top in round one of the two-stage contest, only to be comfortably beaten by a mainstream Right candidate, whoever that may be following party primaries held later this month.

“If she does make it to the second round, she will face either a candidate of the Left or the Right,” said Mr Valls at an economic conference in Berlin.

“This means that the balance of politics will change completely,” he added, warning of “the danger presented by the extreme Right”.

Given the current climate, he warned that Ms Le Pen’s election was now “possible”.

His words echoed those of Jean-Pierre Raffarin, a former centre-Right French prime minister, who warned earlier this week that all predictions of her crashing out were now void.

Ms Le Pen was among the first European politicians to congratulate Mr Trump on his win and has praised his opposition to free trade, globalisation and the “warmongering interventions that are the source of the huge migratory waves that we are enduring”.

Presidential hopefuls from France’s centre-Right yesterday took part in the last of three television debates ahead of primaries this and the following Sunday.

Republican Alain Juppé, a former prime minister, has been polling to come top ahead of Nicolas Sarkozy, the former French president, and his ex-prime minister Francois Fillon.

But one Ifop poll yesterday put Mr Juppe on 31pc in round one, just one percentage point ahead of Mr Sarkozy, with Mr Fillon just behind on 27pc.

Socialist primaries are due in January. Mr Valls is thought to harbour presidential ambitions himself, but has yet to officially throw his hat in the ring to go up against his party’s deeply unpopular head of state François Hollande.

Emmanuel Macron, Mr Hollande’s former economy minister, launched his campaign on Wednesday.

The prime minister’s warning came as a French court ruled that Jean-Marie Le Pen must be allowed to remain honorary president of the Front National, a party he co-founded.

The ruling could seriously hamper Ms Le Pen’s attempts to “detoxify” the FN.

Ms Le Pen threw her father out of the party last year for reiterating his view that the Nazi gas chambers were a mere “detail” of history and defending France’s collaborationist wartime leader, Marshall Petain.

His suspension was later overturned by the courts.

The party must now invite him to all politburo meetings, failing which it faces a fine, the judges ruled.

The Front National was also ordered to pay the party’s founder €15,000 in damages. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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