In the race to be the next French president, Marine Le Pen is the anti-globalisation candidate. She favours economic nationalism and argues free trade is destructive, she’s pledged to slash legal immigration by 80% (and deport all illegal immigrants), she would like to see France return to the Franc, and she’s pledged to hold a referendum on EU membership.
Madame Le Pen has led the Front National party since taking over the reins from her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, in 2011 (though she recently stepped down to campaign as president for “all of France”). She has done her best to purge the FN of its traditional racist, anti-semitic elements – even going so far as to expel her father from the party he founded over comments that the holocaust was a mere “detail of history”. Critics argue that the detoxification has been superficial, and the Front National is still a deeply xenophobic party.
Yet what Madame Le Pen says about foreigners and ethnic minorities is no longer as shocking as it once was. Many of her views on immigration and Islam have been parroted by centre-right (and even centre-left) politicians in recent years as European politics has drifted ever rightwards. However, what sets Le Pen apart (besides her hardline approach on migration) are her so-called “nativist” policies.
Marine Le Pen believes not just in French jobs for French workers, but in French everything for French workers; she argues that jobs, welfare, hospital places, schools, public housing, etc., should all go to French nationals before going to “foreigners”. Critics argue this approach is unconstitutional, unlawful, and completely impossible while France remains a member of the European Union.
Nevertheless, Marine Le Pen sees herself as an ambassador for the anger and frustration many people feel with globalisation. She argues that only she can defend France from the twin evils of “Anglo-Saxon” multiculturalism and economic ultra-liberalism. Her opponent, Emmanuel Macron, argues that her policies would turn France into “Venezuela without the oil”.
She is also, like the former centre-right candidate François Fillon, fending off a series of scandals. In February 2017, the Front National offices were raided by police as part of an official investigation into “fake jobs”. Le Pen is accused of misusing EU funds to pay for a bodyguard and an assistant in Paris, and could face jail if convicted. She is also under investigation for a separate incident in which she tweeted violent Islamic State images. Le Pen believes the charges are politically motivated.
With many French voters worried about terrorism, security has been high on the agenda during the campaign. Marine Le Pen believes in boosting French defence spending, and wants closer ties with Russia. She has pledged to “expel foreigners who preach hatred on our soil” and would strip extremist dual-nationality Muslims of their French citizenship. Domestically, she wants to increase police numbers and broaden their powers, as well as creating tens of thousands of new prison places.
To read more about France and the future of European defence (including more on the policies of Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen), check out Friends of Europe’s recent report on the topic.
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