Parties in France unite against Le Pen

Marine Le Pen's statement on Monday (April 24) denouncing "the old and completely rotten Republican Front" sums up her challenge in the May 7 run-off.
Marine Le Pen's statement on Monday (April 24) denouncing "the old and completely rotten Republican Front" sums up her challenge in the May 7 run-off. PHOTO: AFP

Far-right leader takes leave as party chief to boost odds in presidential run-off on May 7

PARIS • A day after mainstream parties were dealt a heavy defeat in the French presidential election, far-right leader Marine Le Pen, one of the two candidates to advance to a run-off, condemned the parties' calls to unite against her and support her rival, independent centrist Emmanuel Macron.

Ms Le Pen's statement on Monday denouncing "the old and completely rotten Republican Front" - the coalition of mainstream parties allied against her - sums up her challenge in the May 7 run-off.

So far, not a single rival party has called for its voters to support her.

And she has no plausible major reservoir of votes to add to the 21.3 per cent she received in the first round of the ballot, although she is expected to gain some voters from defeated centre-right candidate Francois Fillon.

Perhaps in an effort to broaden her appeal to voters from outside the National Front's (FN's) traditional constituencies, Ms Le Pen announced on Twitter on Monday that she was temporarily stepping down as leader of the far-right party so she could run as a candidate for "all the French".

"Tonight, I am not the president of the National Front, I am the presidential candidate, the one who wants to gather all the French around a project of hope, of prosperity, of security," she said in an interview on French television.

Only one major candidate has resisted calls to unite against Ms Le Peng: Mr Jean-Luc Melenchon, the firebrand hard-left candidate who came in fourth and who has pointedly refused to support Mr Macron.

Some of Ms Le Pen's advisers have said, in interviews with French media, that they were hoping to lure some of the supporters of the defeated Mr Melenchon.

Mr Macron is seen beating Ms Le Pen by 61 per cent to 39 per cent in the run-off vote, according to pollster Opinionway yesterday.

Ms Le Pen yesterday came under fire from her father, far-right veteran Jean-Marie Le Pen, who said she should have campaigned more aggressively for Sunday's first round, following the example of US President Donald Trump, known for his brash campaigning.

With 7.5 million votes, Ms Le Pen beat FN's previous election record on Sunday but failed to pip the pro-European Union Mr Macron to the first place.

"I think her campaign was too laid-back. If I'd been in her place, I would have had a Trump-like campaign, a more open one, very aggressive against those responsible for the decadence of our country, whether left or right," Mr Le Pen, 88, told RTL radio.

Separately, cyber security firm Trend Micro has warned in a new report that Mr Macron's campaign has been targeted by what appears to be the same Russian operatives responsible for hacks of Democratic campaign officials before last year's presidential election in the United States.

But the Kremlin scoffed at the report. President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said "this all recalls the accusations that came from Washington and which are still suspended in thin air".

NYTIMES, REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 26, 2017, with the headline 'Parties in France unite against Le Pen'. Print Edition | Subscribe