Confident of a Strong Showing, Le Pen the First in France to Launch Campaign for Euro Elections

By Fayçal Benhassain | January 16, 2019 | 8:58pm EST
National Rally leader Marine Le Pen launches her party’s campaign for the European elections this week. The slogan on the podium says, ‘Power to the people.’ (Photo by Chesnot/Getty Images)

Paris ( – Getting out ahead of her opponents, the far right French politician Marine Le Pen this week launched her campaign for the European Parliament elections in May, with the goal of linking up with likeminded parties in other E.U. member-states to shake things up in Brussels.

In a campaign launch speech, Le Pen described her populist National Rally as “the defender of the Europe of the people,” and “a great alliance of French patriots opposed to the globalists,” declaring that the E.U. as it currently operates “is a threat to our security and our identity.”

National Rally now has 24 seats in the 751-seat European Parliament, and hopes to increase its representation in May.

Le Pen presented some of the party’s candidates, led by 23-year-old member of the local government in the Parisian suburb of Saint Denis, Jordan Bardella, who also serves as a National Rally spokesman.

“The European elections will be a referendum on [President] Emmanuel Macron’s politics,” Bardella said in an introductory speech, noting that the president is facing a strong challenge from the so-called Yellow Vest protest movement – a group National Rally voters are supporting.

Bardella also raised migration – a priority issue for the National Rally – accusing Macron and the E.U.’s executive Commission of wanting “to impose migrants in our towns and villages.”

“But it is to their home countries that these migrants must be relocated, not here,” he said.

Le Pen herself is not heading the list of European Parliament candidates as she is a member of France’s lower house of parliament, and therefore cannot sit in the E.P.

Political analysts believe she wants to focus on the 2022 presidential elections at home, with the main goal defeating Macron -- who beat Le Pen decisively in a run-off presidential vote in 2017.

Accusing Macron of “blindness and incompetence,” Le Pen blamed him for the political crisis triggered by the anger of the Yellow Vest movement, which is focused primarily on economic grievances.

She spoke of her goal of forming a transnational alliance with likeminded parties elsewhere in Europe, which would together form a powerful minority in the E.P.

Alain Duhamel, a columnist for France’s RTL radio, said Le Pen is confident she is in a position to change things from inside the E.P.

“The populists today are in power in the United States and Brazil and are progressing in Europe,” he wrote. “But the opponents of Marine Le Pen, are today in poor shape.”

Roland Hureaux, the president of a non-partisan political association called Mouvance, said the fact Le Pen’s opponents have yet to begin campaigning for the May election is in her favor.

“It is like a tidal wave that is crossing Europe and she hopes to use it to create a Europe of nations with countries like Poland, Austria and Italy,” he said. “It is not a bad start for the campaign, since everybody is speaking about it.”

Philippe Olivier, a Le Pen advisor, said the party has “every reason to do better than in 2014,” when the last European Parliament elections were held. He recalled that the party, then called the National Front, won 25 percent of the French votes.

In the latest opinion survey, conducted by market research firm Ifop last month, 24 percent of respondents said they intended to vote for the National Rally, compared to 18 percent for Macron’s Republic in Motion.

Political analyst Erwan Lecœur said in an interview with public radio France Info that many events happening in Europe and around the world are creating a political atmosphere favorable to the ideas of the National Rally.

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