Marine Le Pen 'threatening Macron in elections' says expert
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A victory in Provence-Alpes-Cote d’ Azur could prove significant for the far-right leader as proof her party is capable of capturing one of France’s 13 regions. As a result, National Rally is fielding a strong candidate and the odds look good for Ms Le Pen. Dominique Reynie, of the Fondapol think-tank, said: “If the RN wins in PACA, it will be a real event.”
“It will show that traditional political parties can no longer stop them.” she told the FT.
“If they take a region, it means they can take the country.”
Thierry Mariani, National Rally’s candidate in the regional ballot, was recruited from the centre-right Les Republicains.
This was a major coup for Ms Le Pen, who can now demonstrate she has credibility with mainstream voters.
Such tactics are part of her plan to normalise her political outfit, which has been considered an extremist movement since it was founded by her father Jean-Marie Le Pen in the 1970s.
And the strategy appears to be working with Mr Mariani’s list of local officials leading in the polls.
Nationally, Ms Le Pen’s party is also in first place in six regions and on track to exceed its 2015 regional performance when it won the most first-round votes.
Panicking opposition figures, such as Les Republicans’ Renaud Muselier, have urged voters not to fall into the eurosceptic movement’s trap.
Mr Muselier has claimed his rival Mr Mariani is a “Trojan horse” designed to draw traditional conservative voters in.
“It is worrying that people are mixing up the presidential election with local ones – do not make this mistake,” the Les Republicans told potential voters.
Parties are currently jostling for influence as polls predict a rerun of the 2017 election with President Emmanuel Macron facing off against Ms Le Pen in the second round.
Conservative voters are starting to lose faith in the current French leader and have suggested they could instead turn to Ms Le Pen this time around.
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Isabelle, an airport worker in her 50s, has started to believe the eurosceptic leader could win over French people.
Emmanuel Macron cares more about foreign policy than French people’s struggles,” she told the Guardian.
Isabelle was voted for mainstream right-wing candidates, but will not in this year’s regional election.
“I’ve become one of those women who once voted Nicolas Sarkozy and now votes Marine Le Pen,” she added.
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And this feeling is starting to spread across the country with Ms Le Pen using the regional polls as a springboard for her presidential election campaign.
Stewart Chau, of pollsters Viavoice, said: “There is a kind of snowball effect.
“Marine Le Pen has not changed register or softened her key ideas.
“The social context in France means she is benefiting from the fact her traditional themes have anchored down deeply in public opinion in the past six years: the feeling of insecurity and crime, a feeling of decline and social inequality, and her linking those issues to immigration, Europe and globalisation.
“The Covid crisis has reinforced the idea of living in anxious times, the need for protection and national sovereignty.
“The more other parties place Le Pen at the very centre of the political debate by focusing on what scores she can reach and how they can lower those scores – and the more other parties seize on her topics – the more they normalise her party.”
The country is set to go to the polls to decide on its next president in April 2021, in what is expected to be a defining election.
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