French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen has denounced radical Islam as “a monstrous totalitarian ideology that has declared war on our nation, on reason, on civilisation,” after a deadly Kalashnikov attack on police officers in Paris.
“Hate preachers must be expelled, the Islamist mosques closed,” the Front National leader declared, lambasting the Socialist Party government as “notoriously feeble”.
“We cannot afford to lose this war … for the past ten years, Left-wing and Right-wing governments have done everything they can for us to lose it. We need a presidency which acts and protects us,” she declared, calling on outgoing president François Hollande to expel all foreign nationalists on the extremist watch list and terminate France’s membership of the EU’s borderless Schengen area, which was castigated as “effectively an international passport-free zone for terrorists” by former INTERPOL chief Robert Noble after Islamists killed 130 people in Paris in 2015.
Ms Le Pen’s main rival for the presidency, former Rothschild banker Emmanuel Macron, was the Socialist economy minister until recently, and struck a very different tone following the attack, telling RTL France he would not invent an anti-terror programme in response to the police killing.
In another interview shortly after the shooting, Macron described radical Islamic terrorism as and “imponderable problem” which would be “part of our daily lives for the years to come”.
Macron’s comments may prove to be a serious misstep. The presidential hopes of former colleague and prime minister Manuel Valls were dashed after he made a similar statement following the Nice lorry attack, saying “Times have changed and we should learn to live with terrorism” and earning a furious public backlash.
A majority of France’s paramilitary police force – the Gendarmerie – were already planning to vote for Ms Le Pen before the recent killing, well ahead of Macron.
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France election: Marine Le Pen sees Trump-like boost in support, but victory far from assured
April 22, 2017
With one day before France officially heads to the polls for the first round of its presidential elections, candidate Marine Le Pen — who has built her campaign on the populist anger that helped President Trump get elected — is seeing a similar boost in support.
An opinion poll released Friday by Odoxa shows her nearly neck-and-neck with centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron, a jump in the past week. Analysts point out that the latest attack in Paris, which killed a police officer and left three other people wounded Thursday, may have contributed to her surge in support.
Still, the race is far from decided. As many as one-third of voters had not settled on a candidate this week, Newsweek reported. President Trump said he believed the Champs-Elysees attack would help Le Pen, while former President Barack Obama offered Macron his best wishes in a phone call Thursday. Both Trump and Obama stopped short of full endorsements.
Election stations opened Saturday in French overseas territories voting first — one day earlier than on the mainland.
Newsweek found many voters across France saying they were leaning toward Le Pen — which would parallel the surge for Trump last year among undecided voters and supporters who chose to lay low.
André Robert, 56, said her tough stance on terror convinced him. “I’m voting for the candidate who’ll keep us safe.”
“Marine gets me shaking,” 65-year-old Monique Zaouchkevitch said, adding that she’d stayed out of politics until she heard Le Pen speak. “Marine, she’s close to the people.”
In another parallel to the U.S., some voters seemed to suffer from election fatigue and weren’t blown away by any of the candidates. Gabriel Roberoir, a 61-year-old former public servant, called the election a “circus,” adding, “I don’t even know why any of them are running.”
Sunday’s vote is the first round in the French elections, with the top two candidates advancing to a winner-take-all runoff on May 7. The high-stakes contest is viewed as something of a vote on the future of the European Union, with Le Pen calling for a referendum on France’s membership in the bloc.
In a sign of how tense the country has become, a man holding a knife caused widespread panic Saturday at Paris’ Gare du Nord train station. He was arrested and no one was hurt.
Conservative former Prime Minister Francois Fillon, whose campaign was initially derailed by corruption allegations that his wife was paid as his parliamentary aide, also appeared to be closing the gap, as was far-leftist, Jean-Luc Melenchon. Campaigning by the 11 presidential candidates got off to a slow start, bogged down by corruption charges around once-top candidate Fillon before belatedly switching focus to France’s biggest fear: a new attack.
Le Pen has also echoed some of Trump’s hard-line rhetoric on immigration, calling for hardening French borders to stanch what she describes as an out-of-control flow of immigrants.
She has spoken of radical Muslims trying to supplant France’s Judeo-Christian heritage and, among other measures, has called for foreigners suspected of extremism to be expelled from the country.
Le Pen, a 48-year-old mother of three, has distanced herself from her father, National Front party founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, who has been convicted of crimes related to anti-Semitism and mocked the Holocaust as a “detail” of history.
Nevertheless, earlier this month she denied the French state was responsible for the roundup of Jews during World War II, drawing condemnation from other presidential candidates and Israel’s Foreign Ministry.
A victory for Macron would be a vote of confidence in France staying in the EU. Obama, when he was in office, encouraged Britain not to leave, though it ultimately voted to do so anyway.
Trump backed Britain’s decision to exit from the EU and has also predicted that other countries would make similar decisions. Yet during a White House news conference Thursday, the president said he believed in a strong Europe.
“A strong Europe is very, very important to me as president of the United States,” he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
In the midst of ongoing debate about Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and elections in France, former President Barack Obama spoke on the phone with French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron on Thursday.
“Former President Barack Obama gently waded back into international politics on Thursday, talking by phone with French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron,” Politico reported.
Macron, who, like Obama, favors France’s remaining in the European Union, is in an almost neck-and-neck race with candidate Marine Le Pen ahead of the first round of French elections on Sunday.
Obama’s spokesman, however, denied that the phone call and Macron’s tweet to the former president following the phone call are an endorsement:
“An endorsement was not the purpose of the call, as President Obama is not making any formal endorsement,” Obama spokesman Kevin Lewis said.
“The main message I have is to wish you all the best in the coming days, and make sure, as you said, you work hard all the way through—because you never know, it might be that last day of campaigning that makes all the difference,” Obama said in the phone call.
“I will do my best, believe me,” Macron said. “So I will fight to the last minute, and we will keep in touch, and our teams will realize and organize a new contact and see how to work together if I’m getting to the run-off.”
The Hill reported that Macron initiated the call.
President Obama appreciated the opportunity to hear from Mr. Macron about his campaign and the important upcoming presidential election in France, a country that President Obama remains deeply committed to as a close ally of the United States, and as a leader on behalf of liberal values in Europe and around the world.
On March 29, Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee tasked with investigating whether Russia interfered with the U.S. presidential election last year, warned that Russia is interfering with the French election.
“What we might assess was a very covert effort in 2016 in the United States, is a very overt effort, as well as covert, in Germany and France,” Burr told reporters.
“I remind you that we’re within 30 days of the first French election, with four candidates,” Burr said. “It will go down to two candidates with a runoff in May.”
“I think it’s safe by everybody’s judgment that the Russians are actively involved in the French elections,” Burr said.
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