Le Pen berates ‘no party ’ Macron at Paris rally
Far-right candidate portrays rival Emmanuel Macron as the embodiment of ‘finance’
French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen waves to supporters during her rally in Villepinte, near Paris, on Monday. Photograph: François Mori/AP
Marine Le Pen, the candidate for the extreme right-wing Front National (FN) portrayed her centrist opponent Emmanuel Macron as the embodiment of finance at her last big rally before the May 7th election.
Speaking at the exhibition park at Villepinte, near Roissy Charles de Gaulle airport, Le Pen parodied a famous campaign speech given by the outgoing president François Hollande at nearby Le Bourget five years ago.
“My real adversary is nameless and faceless and has no party. He will never be a candidate, he will never be elected, and yet he governs. This adversary is the world of finance,” Le Pen said, quoting Hollande.
The 10,000-strong crowd roared with laughter. Le Pen added: “Today, the adversary of the French people is still the world of finance. But this time he has a name, a face and a party, and he is a candidate and everyone dreams of seeing him elected: his name is Emmanuel Macron.”
Le Pen mocked Macron’s new slogan, “Together, France”, saying: “It would have been more honest for him to say, ‘Together, finance’.”
Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, the renegade Gaullist who won 4.7 per cent of the vote in the first round on April 23rd, has concluded an agreement with Le Pen, who promised to appoint him prime minister if she is elected.
Le Pen is still 22 percentage points behind Macron in opinion polls, at 39 per cent to 61 per cent for Macron.
Speaking before Le Pen, Dupont-Aignan mocked Macron as “Hollande junior” and said his election would “definitively lock France inside the European prison”. The French “must choose between finance and France”, he warned.
Le Pen said Macron would not say who he would appoint as prime minister “doubtless so as not to scare the French. I ask him to tell the truth, to say with what sauce he is going to gobble up the French people.”
Animosity towards “finance” ran high in the crowd. “Macron stands for globalism and [Hungarian-American investor George] Soros and the freemasons,” said Françoise (65), a retired secretary.
“The freemasons are on the right when the right is in power, and on the left when the left is in power,” Françoise’s friend Christine (54), a writer, chimed in.
Christine boasts of having “converted” her entire town of 1,500, near Nîmes, to the FN. “Macron is a bureaucrat banker. What he wants is for all the countries in the EU to lose their identity and form a bloc,” she said.
The women spoke of a worldwide “machiavellian plot” by bankers to encourage immigration “to give [IMMIGRANTS)]voters’ cards so they vote the way the bankers want”. They reproached the outgoing minister for education, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, who is of Moroccan origin, for wanting to put Arabic and Islam on the school curriculum.
Luc, a 54-year-old insurance broker from central Paris, began campaigning for the FN at age 16. “I lived in the [strongly immigrant] 20th district,” he explains. “I was hit in the face several times by Arab gangs, because I was white.”
Luc believes a majority of the French want the FN. But, he adds, close to 10 million French people are of immigrant origin, and they will support Macron.
On Monday, Macron attended an homage to Brahim Bouarram, the Moroccan who was drowned in the Seine after the FN’s May Day rally in 1995. That, along with the fact that Macron last week visited the immigrant banlieue of Sarcelles “shows he’s after the immigrant vote”, Luc said.
Luc predicted “there will be polling stations where no one dares pick up a ballot for Marine Le Pen, where they’ll throw out her ballots instead of counting them. There will be cheating.”
Optimum currency areas
The Villepinte rally seemed to refute the assumption that Le Pen’s voters are poor and uneducated. Jean-Baptiste, a 34-year-old business school graduate and pension fund manager, quoted the Nobel economist Paul Krugman, and Robert Mundell’s theory of optimum currency areas, as proof that Le Pen is right in wanting to abandon the euro.
But Le Pen back-pedalled at the weekend, promising to allow businesses to keep the euro while the franc circulates locally. “She’s trying to reassure people,” Jean-Baptiste explained. “Once she’s elected, we’ll have a good debate on the euro.”
Jean-Baptiste doesn’t believe Le Pen will win on May 7th. But if she scores 40 per cent or more, he says, the FN will have five years to prove itself as the principal opposition to Macron. “In 2022, she’ll have a good chance.”
On the train back to Paris, I met a band of friends, four young men and four young women, all students aged between 18 and 24.
While we talked, young anarchists wearing balaclavas were skirmishing with police in an anti-Le Pen march from the Place de la République to the Place de la Nation.
The eight youths in the train were clean-cut, well dressed residents of the most affluent districts in Paris. They took home tricolours and large “Choose France” portrait posters of Le Pen to hang in their bedrooms.
“We stick out in our neighbourhoods,” Jeanne, an art history student, admitted. “Our families don’t like it.” They admire Le Pen “because everyone is against her”.
Henri, a law student, said he will vote Le Pen because “there have been terrorist attacks and we are all potential victims . . . On Twitter we get insulted as racists, fascists, nazis.”
The young people hope that Le Pen, a seasoned orator, will defeat Macron in a television debate on Wednesday night. As further evidence that she could win, they cite Serge Galam, a mathematician, and his theory of “differential abstention”, based on the fact that Le Pen’s supporters are more devoted than Macron’s.
The youths were angry with Macron for saying there is not one French culture, but many. “We don’t believe in diversity anymore,” said Aliénor, a student of history and communications. “The left is flabby. They have no ideals to offer us.”
“Our grandparents were from the left-wing, May ’68 generation,” said Jeanne. “And now we’re suffering the consequences.”