Marine Le Pen, a fighter suffering another big defeat

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Paris (AFP)- Marine Le Pen, who lost the second round of the French presidential election to Emmanuel Macron on Sunday, had fought to make her far-right party eligible but ultimately failed by a wide margin to win a majority of votes. voters.

Trailing by about 16 percentage points in the second round according to projections, Le Pen has come much closer to power than any far-right leader in France’s post-World War II history.

“The ideas we represent have reached new heights…this result in itself represents a brilliant victory,” she told her supporters in a defiant statement after the release of the first estimated results.

Le Pen added that she will “continue” her political career and “lead the battle” against Macron in the June legislative elections.

Softening her image and focusing on social and economic issues helped her erode the traditional united front of traditional French voters who had seen her and her father walk away in previous elections.

While the 53-year-old has also benefited from coverage of the emergence of Eric Zemmour, an explosive television polemicist who is even more right-wing, her unprecedented performance owes much to her ability to take on the provocative side of the former National Front.

She renamed the party the National Rally (RN) after deporting her father Jean-Marie in 2015, symbolically breaking with his overt racism and anti-Semitic rhetoric.

Le Pen’s focus in this year’s campaign on cost-of-living issues in the face of rising inflation, driven in part by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, has helped her to avoid the televised second-round debate debacle inflicted by Macron in 2017.

This time around, the candidates have delved into the details of policy areas such as finance and pension reform – helping the far-right leader look like another presidential hopeful.

In fact, “her program has not changed at all in relation to the fundamentals of the National Front such as immigration and national identity, but she has chosen a different vocabulary to justify it”, said Cécile Alduy, an expert on the extreme right.

If elected, Le Pen has planned measures such as cutting benefits for many immigrants, repudiating the rule of EU law and closing the door to most asylum seekers.

On the final day of official campaigning on Friday, she insisted the voters’ choice was between “Macron or France”.

family affair

Le Pen’s life has been marked by the legacy of his openly racist father, a veteran of Algeria’s long war that ultimately led to independence for the former French colony.

The French forced to flee Algeria and their descendants – the so-called “black feet” – remain a crucial base of support for the party in the south.

When she was young, “it wasn’t easy for people to date Marine Le Pen” because of her surname, she told people magazine Closer in an interview that aimed to present a more human.

“I remember a man choosing to break up with me, the pressure from his social circle was so strong.”

Divorced twice, she now says she is happy to be single.

After training as a lawyer, she began her career defending illegal immigrants threatened with deportation, but then returned to the family fold and to her father’s party.

Under his leadership since 2011, the party has broadened its appeal to residents of France’s formerly communist Northern Rust Belt. DENIS CHARLETAFP

Under his leadership since 2011, the party has broadened its appeal to residents of the Rust Belt of formerly communist northern France. His expulsion of the elder Le Pen, who once called the Holocaust gas chambers a “detail of history,” also helped temper his toxic image.

The difficult years following the 2017 defeat saw Le Pen purge even more senior members of the RN deemed harmful to the party’s appeal, while his niece Marion Marechal – a former MP and popular figure on the French far right – shifted its support to Zemmour.

Le Pen’s name remains tricky enough that most RN campaign posters refer to the candidate simply as “Marine”.

Radical program

Le Pen’s plans included a so-called “national preference” for hiring French workers over foreigners, the exclusion of non-nationals from certain social benefits and the withdrawal of parts of the European Convention on Human Rights. the man.

That would have meant “abandoning our (treaty) commitments and triggering a Frexit” – a French exit from the European Union – said Serge Slama, a law professor at the University of Grenoble.

Meanwhile, a backlash against Le Pen’s professed admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom she met in 2017, has failed to materialize despite Moscow’s assault on Ukraine.

‘When you talk to Russia, you talk to your banker,’ Macron charged in the televised debate, accusing his rival of being ‘dependent’ on Putin for taking out a loan from a state-linked Russian lender .

Le Pen countered that she was “an absolutely and totally free woman”.

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