Le Pen fires up Marseille ahead of weekend elections

Marine Le Pen and centrist Emmanuel Macron are barely hanging on to their status as favourites to advance to the run-off vote, set down for next month.


Conservative Francois Fillon and far-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon are gaining momentum, and with a large number of voters still said to be undecided, few are sure exactly what might happen.

Barely a day after police foiled an imminent terror attack there, 10,000 supporters of Marine Le Pen’s National Front have streamed into the southern French city of Marseille.

It’s where the 48 year-old Ms Le Pen has been campaigning, and there’s no lack of enthusiasm amongst her supporters.

“Here in Marseille, it’s not a French town. It’s a big melting pot. So I think Marine Le Pen is our last hope for the future of Europe.”

“She’s the first woman for politics in France. She will be winning. I am sure of that.”

There was similar adulation inside Ms Le Pen’s rally.

She’s thanked supporters for coming out despite the terror arrests in the city.

“Well done for coming here in such great numbers, despite the legitimate fears that came from yesterday’s event in Marseille!”

The crowd stomped their feet in glee for the woman they say is helping reclaim their French identity.

Ms Le Pen repreated her four key campaign pledges: to seal France’s borders, to abandon the euro, to tax employers who hire foreign workers, and to negotiate a better deal with the European Union.

Ms Le Pen claims if she can’t get a better deal with the European Union, France will do as Britain is doing, and leave the bloc – a so-called “Frexit”.

She says she is the only candidate who can deliver real change.

“No one is fooled! The only candidate who has a chance to overthrow the elite and dismiss the oligarchy is I!”

She says the nation needs a president who wants to continue living in France like the French.

That remark so stirred her supporters, they delivered a spontaneous rendition of the National Anthem.

Ms Le Pen is the first right-wing contender within realistic reach of the French presidency since the end of the Second World War.

She’s riding a wave of new populism.

But there are some amongst her support who dismiss any comparison between her and the successful populist candidate who won the presidency on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.

“There is a very, very big difference between (US president Donald) Trump and Marine Le Pen. I don’t like Trump because he’s a fool. But Marine Le Pen is not a fool.”

Ms Le Pen’s controversial views enjoy far from universal support, though.

Around 500 anti-Le Pen protesters clashed with police in Marseille and tear gas was used, although they were kept well back from the venue of her rally.

Whether her views are popular enough, however, will ultimately be decided at the ballot box.