Friday 24 November 2017

'Toxic Le Pen brand will cause her party to fail'

French far-right Front National (FN) party president, Marine Le Pen. Photo: Getty
French far-right Front National (FN) party president, Marine Le Pen. Photo: Getty

Henry Samuel

Marine Le Pen, the Front National leader, stands no chance of winning next year's presidential elections because the French still find the Le Pen brand - not its ideas - too toxic, according to one of the country's canniest electoral analysts.

Her failure could lead to the break-up of the Front National, already riven between the north and south of the country.

That is the prediction of Patrick Buisson, ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy's former eminence grise and the man he claimed "won" him his 2007 election.

A controversial figure who fell out with Mr Sarkozy after it emerged he had been secretly recording their Elysée Palace conversations, few question Mr Buisson's deep knowledge of the right and far-right electorate.

In the wake of Brexit and Donald Trump's surprise victory in America, debate in France has turned to whether Ms Le Pen can confound the polls and sweep to power in presidential elections next May.

She is polled to win the highest score in round one, taking up to a third of the vote, only to lose against a mainstream candidate in the run-off, but some say the Brexit and Trump results mean all bets are off.

Her most likely last-round opponent is François Fillon, a social conservative who won Sunday's centre-right primaries with a hardline stance on identity and Islam and a pledge to "tear the house down and rebuild it" via radical economic reforms some are calling Thatcherite.

Mr Fillon, whose positions on everything from Islam to Russia are closer to hers, will lose Ms Le Pen votes in the first round of presidential elections as the right rallies behind his unabashed conservative agenda, according to Mr Buisson.

While key surveys show the French embracing many of the FN's ideas like never before, "the die is cast for Marine Le Pen to fail" due to a rejection of her family name that no amount of "detoxification" will remove.

"The FN has absolutely no chance of winning power. Its score in the second round will hover around 30pc, perhaps 35pc - not more," he said. "All claims the Front National is at the gates of power don't correspond at all to reality."

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