Far-Right Le Pen Performs Tactical Maneuver ahead of Runoff of France’s Presidential Elections

Marine Le Pen, France's National Front's (FN) political party candidate for French 2017 presidential election, speaks with employees as she visits the Rungis international food market, near Paris, during her campaign, France, April 25, 2017. Photo: Charles Platiau/Pool/EPA/REX/Shutterstock

  • Marine Le Pen, one of the two remaining candidates for the French Presidency, has said she is stepping temporarily as the leader of the far-right National Front in what is seen as a tactical maneuver.
  • Le Pen has sought to present herself as a candidate above the Front’s narrow base.
  • She lost the first round of the French presidential elections to centrist Macron by 1 million votes.
  • Le Pen has been scolded by her xenophobic and anti-Semitic father, the Front’s founder, for not running a more aggressive campaign.

Marine Le Pen, the leader of far-right National Front, who is going to battle centrist liberal Emmanuel Macron in the second round of France’s 2017 presidential elections, has resigned temporarily as the leader of her party in what appears to be a tactical maneuver to attract voters.

Macron and Le Pen are going to face one another in the May 7 runoff, after in the first round of the elections on April 23, the former won 24%, or 8.66 million votes, while the latter received 21.3%, or 7.68 million votes, according to the official final tally released by France’s Interior Ministry.

Conservative candidate Francois Fillon got 20.01% of the votes, while far-left bidder Jean-Luc Melenchon remained fourth with 19.58%.

The turnout in the first round of the vote was 77.77%, the lowest in a French presidential election in the past 15 years.

Public opinion polls predicted more or less correctly that Macron and Le Pen would be almost tied at a little over 20% of the votes, with a slight lead for the former.

In the runoff, however, the pollsters forecast a decisive victory for the 39-year-old Macron.

Nonetheless, in the first round of the 2017 French presidential elections, Le Pen has achieved the best result by her far-right party to date.

Tactical Maneuver

Marine Le Pen announced that she was temporarily stepping down as head of her National Front Party.

“Tonight, I am no longer the president of the National Front. I am the presidential candidate,” she said on French public television news, as cited by AP and France24.

In the past, Le Pen has said that she is not a candidate of her party, and the measures proposed in her platform were not her party’s, but her own.

Le Pen has worked to bring in voters from the left and right for several years, cleaning up her party’s racist, anti-Semitic image to do so, AP commented.

Father Criticism

Not long after she announced her decision to step down as head of the anti-EU and far-right National Front party, Marine Le Pen was criticized by her father, the anti-Semitic founder of the National Front, Jean-Marie Le Pen, Reuters reported.

“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,” 88-year-old Jean-Marie Le Pen told RTL radio.

Jean-Marie Le Pen and his daughter Marine Le Pen have been at odds since Marine Le Pen launched moves to clean the National Front’s image of xenophobic associations in the run-up to the campaign for the 2017 presidency.

Far-right veteran Jean-Marie Le Pen shocked the world in 2002 by qualifying for the second round of the presidential election and then went on to lose in a landslide to conservative Jacques Chirac.

He was frequently accused of making xenophobic and anti-Semitic statements and his daughter Marine Le Pen expelled him from the party in 2015. Yet, as the party’s founder he remains a well-known figure and represents a body of opinion in the party. In another sign of his influence, the National Front has borrowed about 6 million euros from a political fundraising association he heads.

Reuters also comments that Marine Le Pen’s decision to take a leave of absence from the day-to-day management of the party appeared to be an attempt to portray herself as being above the narrow world of National Front politics and broaden her appeal to the wider electorate ahead of the crucial runoff vote.

Her program calls for sharp curbs on immigration and on the rights of immigrants living in France, as well as the expulsion of foreigners under suspicion of having militant Islamist links.

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