domingo, 4 de setembro de 2016
Marine Le Pen’s election pitch: I am free
Marine Le Pen’s election pitch: I am free
In race for conservative presidential nomination, candidates take old proposals from France’s far-right leader.
9/4/16, 7:51 PM CET
BRACHAY, France – After a hiatus from frontline politics, Marine Le Pen made a comeback this weekend in a farming village, giving voters a simple reason to elect her president next year: I’m the only candidate who is not beholden to special interests.
It’s an argument that echoes Donald Trump’s simple appeal to Republican voters in the United States, and aims to set Le Pen apart from conservative rivals at home, like former President Nicolas Sarkozy. Her subliminal message: others may try to woo you with tough talk on security and Islam, but I am the only one who will act on my ideas.
“In order to preside, you need to be free, which as you know is not the case for any of my opponents, and which makes me, if I dare say so, the exception in this presidential election,” she told a crowd of several hundred in Brachay, in eastern France. The National Front party won its highest percentage of votes nation-wide in the 2012 presidential election.
“I claim complete freedom […], freedom from the powers to which others have submitted, namely money, whether it be from Qatar or the big banks and multinational firms that buy everything,” she said Saturday, eight months before the French head to the polls.
It will be a tricky balancing act for Le Pen. Her speech in Brachay was a way of saying she’s back in business after a period of quiet, and also a signal that she’s still loyal to her traditional base of supporters in rural and exurban France.
‘Marine, save us’
Brachay offered a bucolic backdrop to her speech, as well as a guarantee of an ultra-supportive audience. More than 70 percent of the town’s population backed Le Pen in 2012, and on Saturday, dozens turned out, wearing t-shirts with words, “Brachay, I am FN” — meaning backers of the National Front. Over the central square, where Le Pen delivered her speech, a giant banner said: “MARINE, SAVE US.”
Despite much enthusiasm for Le Pen, something was missing.
“People here are totally fed up,” said José, 52, a leather-clad biker, who declined to give his last name for as he put it, “professional reasons.”
“We are the France that has been forgotten, the France that has been lost,” José said. “We’re not in Paris, Lyon or the biggest cities, so we have no representation and no right to speak […] Marine is our only hope.”
Despite much enthusiasm for Le Pen, something was missing: a major new proposal or any ideas, aside from one to form a “thinking circle” on agricultural issues.
Le Pen’s speech railed against an array of well-worn targets, including religious and ethnic “communities” (as opposed, in her rhetoric, to the indivisible French Republic), the European Union, Germany’s perceived “dominance” of Europe, France’s “corrupt” and “compromised” political class, as well as “Islamic fundamentalists, who want to replace our French culture.”
She did, however, praise British Prime Minister Theresa May as an example of bold leadership and repeated her promise to hold a “Frexit” referendum if elected.
No grand proposal – yet
Aides said Le Pen was biding her time and is in no rush to start spinning out specific campaign proposals. Officials have until September 20 to submit thematic ideas (one of them is to reinstate military service), from which the candidate will pick and choose before launching her campaign, probably in January 2017.
Candidates are competing to get heard, with some turning up the volume on their proposals for the shock value.
In the meantime, her aides said, Le Pen had no intention of changing her core program — even if that meant letting conservative candidates in a right-wing primary drown out her voice. At the rally in Brachay, she recalled that her party backed a ban on the wearing of clothes with ostentatious religious signs in public, including the burkini.
“Our position is unambiguous,” she said. “Whatever the color of skin, sexual orientation or religion, we only recognize one community, the national community.”
National Front treasurer Wallerand de Saint-Just said the other conservatives are clearly “digging deep into our toolbox.”
“They are showing that society has come around to the issues that we’ve been addressing for years. In fact, they [conservative candidates] are working for us. It’s beneficial, any way you look at it.”
With conservative voters set to choose their presidential candidate in a two-round primary on November 20 and November 27, candidates are competing to get heard, with some turning up the volume on their proposals for the shock value.
Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, a candidate in the right-wing primary, proposed banning the ultra-conservative Salafist movement in the wake of the Nice terrorist attack; while Bruno Le Maire, currently ranked third in race for the right-wing nomination, suggested arresting and detaining “potential” terrorists, even if they have not committed any crime.
The Trump-style rush to make outrageous headlines has put the National Front in an unusual position: that of a party that in the past was decried as extreme, but is now preaching moderation and respect for the rule of law.
Asked about Le Maire’s proposal to lock up potential terrorists, Saint-Just said: “What he’s proposing is to create a French Guantanamo, a French version of a place that’s been criticized around the world as illegally detaining people. It’s crazy.”
“The same goes for the idea of banning Salafism,” Saint-Just said. “You cannot legislate to snuff out a religious current, or an idea. It doesn’t make sense, and we would never go down that road. […] We are the party of law and order, by which we mean acting only within the bounds of what’s legally possible.”
When conservative candidates are not outflanking the National Front to the right, they are stealing directly from the party’s toolbox. After the Nice attack, Sarkozy praised the idea of switching away from birthright citizenship to making it hereditary — an idea that the National Front has been proposing for years, and which polls show is backed by a majority of voters.
“The difference is that we said it first, and that Sarkozy is totally illegitimate in making these claims,” added Saint-Just. “Why did he not do it when he was president? The French people are not stupid; they know when they are being fooled.”
Indeed, Front officials are hoping that Le Pen will end up facing Sarkozy in the final round of the presidential election, rather than the current conservative frontrunner, Alain Juppé. Since April 2013, not a single opinion poll out of 38 that have been conducted has shown Le Pen failing to reach the runoff of the two-round presidential election.
Despite impressive poll showing, Le Pen still faces one major obstacle: funding. Saint-Just admitted the party was still missing €25 million, needed to fund her presidential and legislative campaigns next year.
If no foreign lender was willing to advance the money by November or December, Le Pen would have to financially relay solely on Cotelec, a lender, managed by her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen. However, Cotelec would at most be able to stump up four or five million euros for the campaign.
“That would be very tight indeed,” Saint-Just added.