Le Pen would comfortably beat Macron in French election re-match: polls

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Paris: Eurosceptic populist Marine Le Pen has confirmed her intention to run for office in 2027, and made pledges for “when I’m elected French president”.

The 54-year-old National Rally leader has momentum behind her as polls suggest she would comfortably beat Emmanuel Macron if a re-match of the presidential run-off took place.

Speaking to several European newspapers, she said: “I’m candidate until further notice.”

French far-right leader Marine Le Pen speaks to media at the National Assembly in Paris on Thursday.Credit: AP

An Ipsos survey released on Friday declared she is France’s second-most popular political figure behind Edouard Philippe – Macron’s former prime minister – and has achieved her highest ranking, on 39 per cent. Macron has fallen to his lowest approval rating in four years, on 28 per cent.

The far-right member of the French National Assembly also pledged to join forces with Britain to deport migrants who illegally cross the English Channel in small boats.

Last month, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Macron announced a deal to take Anglo-French co-operation in combating the surge in migrants to “an unprecedented level”.

French President Emmanuel Macron wears boxing gloves as he campaigns in 2022.Credit: AP

But Macron said he still remained opposed to a bilateral deal to take back Channel migrants who arrive illegally in the UK from France, and said the arrangement would have to be negotiated with the EU as a whole.

Le Pen, however, said she would go further in bilateral, rather than EU-wide co-operation.

“Britain wants to protect its borders and therefore prevent illegal immigrants from entering the UK. They happen to come from France,” she said.

“We have to have the capacity, Great Britain and France bilaterally, to be able to go and see the countries from which these illegal immigrants originate to make joint flights, to send the illegal immigrants back to their country of origin.”

A protest in the French city of Nantes this month over plans to raise the age of the country’s pension.Credit: AP

Le Pen reiterated her electoral pledge for a “referendum to stop immigration and control our borders”.

After a disastrous 2017 campaign performance against Macron, Le Pen appeared less shaky in last year’s rematch and her party secured 89 MPs in parliament.

As Macron is embroiled in protests over pension reform and his party has been locked in slanging matches with Leftist France Unbowed MPs, Le Pen’s group has kept a low profile and her MPs have “got to work”.

Le Pen has cashed in on anger against the reform and “far-left” vandalism in protests.

“I fully understand that the French express their opposition in demos, but I do not accept violence. And I hold the government responsible for the disorder that exists: it has lost the fight for public order,” she said.

Last week, a poll suggested Le Pen would now clinch 55 per cent of the vote to Macron’s 45 per cent. Some 58 per cent saw her as “attached to democratic values” and 47 per cent as having the “stature of a president”.

The “de-demonisation” of the erstwhile Front National, founded by her sulphurous father Jean-Marie Le Pen, is now complete, she asserted. She added she could take “some small credit” for the transformation.

Frédéric Dabi, of Ifop, said: “Her image has totally changed and the structure of her electorate also. It’s no longer the FN [Front National] of old, it’s a catch-all.”

Le Pen denied her party had “ever been far-Right” as it had always been for “more parliamentary democracy, political pluralism via proportional representation, and against violence”. She claimed: “We’ve gone from being the most hated party in France to being the most loved.”

She said she would champion parliamentary democracy that had been “trampled on” by Macron.

“There will be more democracy if I am elected because I will set up referendums, I will set up the proportional system and I will remain in the role of French president by making the National Assembly work,” she said.

Critics suggest Le Pen is long on soundbites and short on policy detail. Her answer to the pension timebomb, for example, is to keep the retirement age at 62 rather than raise it to 64 with a minimum of 42 years in contributions.

She claimed vaguely that the end of the boomer generation and “higher productivity rates” should she be elected, would avoid the state system running into deficits despite an ageing population.

The Telegraph, London

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