Opinion polls say she will win enough votes in the first round on April 23, but the numbers also show she will be defeated in the second round on May 7. But she couldn’t care less because the polls had said the same thing about the Britons and Americans last year – the UK would not leave EU and Donald Trump would not win.
With less than 3 months before voting begins, the head of the National Front (FN) and far-right leader Marine Le Pen vowed on Sunday she would be a “France First” president, the same way President Donald Trump puts “America First”. Currently leading the first round of the election race, Le Pen is drumming the war of patriotism to the French.
“What is at stake in this election … is whether France can still be a free nation. The divide is not between the left and right any more but between patriots and globalists” – said Marine Le Pen. She compared globalisation to slavery, saying it meant “manufacturing with slaves to sell to the unemployed.” She wanted a country “which owes nothing to anyone”.
Le Pen told thousands of flag-waving supporters that she alone could protect them against Islamic fundamentalism and globalization if elected president in May – “Past leaders chose deregulated globalization. They said it would be happy; it turned out to be awful. Financial globalization and Islamist globalization are helping each other out … Those two ideologies want to bring France to its knees.”
Capitalizing on the election of President Donald Trump in the U.S. and Britons’ vote to leave the European Union, Le Pen trumpets anti-immigration and anti-EU to win her presidency in France. Urging the French to emulate Trump voters “who put their own national interests first”, she claims her party “will be all about the local, not the global.”
The fierce woman candidate for the French presidency said she would drastically curb migration, expel all illegal migrants and restrict certain rights now available to all residents, including free education, to French citizens only. Her administration would also hold a referendum on EU membership, and slap taxes on imports and on the job contracts of foreigners.
Her closest rival, Francois Fillon, once a favourite to become France’s next leader is sinking after a scandal exploded over alleged fake jobs for members of his family. Police is investigating allegations that Fillon’s Welsh-born wife, Penelope, and two of his five children were paid €900,000 (US$970,000; £777,000; RM4.3 million) of public money for work they did not do.
Known as “Penelope-Gate”, Fillon’s wife was paid €831,440 for a job as his parliamentary assistant for 15 years, while in fact she hadn’t done anything. Though it is legal in France for parliamentarians to employ family members, it is illegal to do so if no work was done. So far, nobody had seen evidence of Penelope Fillon’s work.
Penelope Fillon herself told a TV documentary in 2008: “I don’t have a role,” saying she sometimes accompanied her husband on political outings “but that’s the limit”. Mr. Fillon told a television interviewer in November last year that his wife stayed at home in Sarthe taking care of his 5 children – “It was 24/7, so basically they (children) were raised by their mother.”
Fillon, 62, is also accused of paying two of his five children an additional €84,000 of public money as “parliamentary assistants” when he was a senator between 2005 and 2007. Mrs Fillon also faces allegations that she was unfairly paid €100,000 by a magazine called La Revue des Deux Mondes, owned by a close friend of Mr Fillon’s, for writing two short articles.
Le Canard Enchainé claimed Fillon had paid his daughter Marie, 23 at the time and not yet fully sworn in as a lawyer, a total of €57,084 over 15 months. He then employed his son Charles, then studying law, for six months on a salary of €26,651. A new opinion poll for the Journal du Dimanche showed French voters who believe Fillon to be “honest” has plunged to 23% from 50% last November.
However, even without Francois Fillon, Marine Le Pen is fighting an uphill battle against fast-rising Emmanuel Macron, a former investment banker and a former economy minister under unpopular Socialist President Francois Hollande. The people of France are indeed waking up. But are the voters waking up fast enough to help push Le Pen for the presidency?
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