Friday 18 August 2017

'Rustbelt' voters join Le Pen to celebrate

Supporters of National Front leader Marine Le Pen celebrate in the Francois Mitterrand centre in Henin Beaumont. Photo: Getty
Supporters of National Front leader Marine Le Pen celebrate in the Francois Mitterrand centre in Henin Beaumont. Photo: Getty

Rory Mulholland

It was in a down-at-heel town in the Front National heartlands of northern France, far from the despised Parisian elite, that Marine Le Pen chose to celebrate the election victory that brought her just one step from becoming the country's next president.

"What is at stake here is the survival of France," she told a wildly cheering crowd after the results were announced from the first round of voting in the most unpredictable and important election for decades.

She was speaking in a sports hall on the edge of the town of Henin-Beaumont, a couple of hours' drive north of Paris in the French "rustbelt", where the coal mines closed long ago and the factories moved to eastern Europe or Asia.

Behind the hall, ironically named the François Mitterrand Centre after the late Socialist president, lies a giant slag heap, a reminder of the now disappeared mines whose traditionally left-wing workers were won over by Ms Le Pen's anti-globalisation crusade.

Ms Le Pen's father made it through to the second round of the 2002 presidential election but was then crushed by the conservative Jacques Chirac after both left- and right-wing voters rallied together to defeat him.

Many believed that Jean-Marie Le Pen never really wanted to rule but was more interested in being a thorn in the side of the establishment.

There are few who think Marine is happy to be no more than a political nuisance.

She has made it clear she wants power.

Irish Independent

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