Sunday 18 March 2018

Wind of history will blow me into power, says Le Pen

Far-right leader presidential candidate Marine Le Pen speaks to her faithful in Lyon (AP Photo/Michel Euler)
Far-right leader presidential candidate Marine Le Pen speaks to her faithful in Lyon (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

Rory Mulholland

Far-Right leader Marine Le Pen promised a revolution for France as she officially launched her presidential campaign yesterday, declaring that the same nationalist forces that propelled Donald Trump to power in the US will take her to victory.

"The wind of history has turned, it will carry us to the summit," she told a cheering crowd of around 3,000 people in Lyon, where a day earlier the centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron, who leads the opinion polls, also promised to overthrow the established order.

The words 'Front National' - the name of the party founded by her father Jean-Marie Le Pen - and the family name were nowhere to be seen as the 48-year-old lawyer took to a stage emblazoned with the words: 'Au nom du peuple' (In the name of the people).

"What is at stake in this election is whether France can still be a free nation," Ms Le Pen told the flag-waving supporters at the rally in a congress centre. "The divide is no longer between the left and right but between patriots and globalists."

Most polls predict Ms Le Pen will win the first round of the election but will lose the final round on May 7 to Mr Macron - who has edged ahead of Francois Fillon after a corruption scandal centring on the conservative candidate's British wife, Penelope.

But this is the most unpredictable French election in decades and the far-right leader and her supporters believe that all bets are off after the Brexit and Trump votes. These show that it is not only "possible that presidents like Donald Trump can be elected but that they can above all respect their promises", declared Ms Le Pen.

She promised a "revolution", based on "patriotism, proximity, liberty".

In 144 manifesto "commitments", published on Saturday, she proposes leaving the eurozone, holding a referendum on EU membership, slapping taxes on imports and on the job contracts of foreigners, lowering the retirement age and increasing several welfare benefits while lowering income tax.

Ms Le Pen has sought to make the Front National more mainstream but her speech in Lyon showed anti-immigrant rhetoric is still central.

The loudest applause came when she railed against foreigners committing crimes in France and said no illegal immigrant would be granted residency or given free health care if she came to power.

It was exactly the message 68-year-old Guy Ughetto had travelled 240km from the southern city of Avignon to hear. "There has been an invasion of north Africans and Africans, an invasion that has been tolerated by successive [French] governments," he said as he queued to get into the rally.

Ms Le Pen got another ovation when she claimed "financial globalisation and Islamist globalisation" were linked and were "two ideologies that want to bring France to its knees".

She took a swipe at her election rivals, saying that while she stood for "the France of the people", they stood for "the moneyed right, the moneyed left". That was a thinly veiled reference to Mr Macron, who was a banker before becoming economy minister under President Francois Hollande and then resigning last year to launch his political movement.

It was also a dig at Mr Fillon, who lives in a 12th century chateau and who campaigned on a platform of probity and high ethics until late last month when allegations emerged that his Welsh-born wife Penelope had been paid more than €800,000 for a "fictitious job" as his parliamentary aide. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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