“Britain will never leave the EU!” – “The star of The Apprentice will never become President of the United States!” – “A really far-right candidate doesn’t stand a chance in the French Elections!” – Two of these statements have come true, even though both were widely held to be the truth. Now Marine Le Pen, far right candidate for the National Front. She was able to get enough of the vote for her to face off against Macron on May 7th, 2017.
Marine Le Pen comes from a political family. Her father Jean-Marie Le Pen was a politician that ran for president of France 5 times, with views that make Marine Le Pen’s own views seem very tame by comparison. She was raised Roman Catholic, and studied Law at the Panthéon-Assas University.
What About Marine Le Pen?
She joined the National Front (NF) at the age of 18, with a goal of “de-demonizing” the whole party. The NF had left a bad taste in the mouths of most French voters, as the idea of favoring the death penalty and the heavy-handed and strict immigration laws the National Front pushed for did not sit well with most people. She tried as hard as she could to get away from her father’s controversial statements, such as the gas chambers of Nazi Germany being “a mere feature of World War II.” Statements like these firmly cemented the National Front as a dangerous, nationalistic movement in the eyes of most French citizens.
Marine Le Pen gained leadership in the National Front around 2010-11, with help and support from the established leaders of the NF at the time. Her first presidential run was in 2012, but she did not gain enough support at the time to hold any sort of majority. However, her ideas were made even more public than they had been before, and she did gain a smaller but loyal support during this time.
During this election cycle, she softened her message somewhat, in an attempt to bring in a new audience. Her message has been similar to the messages spread by both Trump and supporters of Brexit; she spreads a message of dissatisfaction with the current elite and a distrust of immigrants and Muslims in particular. In 2010, Marine Le Pen said in a speech that blocking the streets for Muslim prayers was similar to the Nazi occupation of France during World War II. This statement drew fire and potential legal action, but the charges were dropped as “her statements did not target the Muslim community as a whole.”
Marine Le Pen and Donald J. Trump
Marine Le Pen watched Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy with great interest, and believed that Trump had “made possible what was previously impossible…” Namely, a nationalist candidate winning the presidency of a First-World country in 2016. While she announced her presidential bid in April of 2016, Le Pen stayed quiet until after Trump was inaugurated.
Le Pen has taken a great interest in what she sees as a new world… She saw Brexit as the most important event in world history since the Berlin Wall, and Trump’s victory as an “additional stone in the building of a new world.” (BBC News)
What About Policies?
Marine Le Pen has several points that she is targeting in hopes of winning the election. These points include:
Immigration: Le Pen says that French Citizenship should be “inherited or merited,” and illegal immigrants have no right at all to stay in France, as they broke the law in going there. Similar to Trump’s campaign rhetoric, Marine Le Pen has a firm and unequivocal stance on immigration.
The EU: Le Pen has promised to put a referendum through the EU, and to leave if conditions on globalization don’t change.
Islam: Le Pen does not distinguish Islamic terrorists from normal Islamic people, instead putting all of Islam in a “problem” category (you can see this here).
Nationalism: Marine Le Pen (like Trump) believes in a “France first” political stance. Resources in France belong to nationals first, others second. Immigrants take second place to citizens in Le Pen’s plan.
Wrapping It Up
Hopefully that gives you a better idea of what all the fuss is about in France. If it sounds familiar to Americans, it should. It’s similar to Donald Trump in France. These world events have influenced each other; Brexit helped create a climate where Donald Trump could win, and Trump’s win just may have created a climate where Marine Le Pen can win… But we don’t find out until May 7th.