11 Jan 2017 by Virginia Hale
Marine Le Pen has overtaken centre-right candidate François Fillon to be the frontrunner in France’s presidential election, according to the latest poll by Ifop-Fiducial.
Le Pen is leading the race for the first time in the campaign as the Republicans candidate Fillon struggles with working class voters who supported Nicolas Sarkozy in 2012.
The Front National icon is currently attracting between 26 per cent and 26.5 per cent of the vote while Fillon, who became the candidate of the right and centre having battled through a primary, oscillates between 24 per cent and 25 per cent, reports Paris Match.
Support for the Republicans’s candidate is eroding among voters who opted for Nicolas Sarkozy in 2012, and also people in France who are less well off, and sceptical of his free marketeer reform ambitions. In vital categories, Fillon faces setbacks in support with minus 12 points among workers (8 per cent) and minus 11 among the wider middle and lower middle class (11 per cent).
However, even if Le Pen wins the first round in April, polls published Tuesday show she could be defeated by 64 per cent to 36 per cent in the subsequent election runoff. According to the survey, independent candidate Emmanuel Macron, a former economy minister in France, would win 17 to 20 per cent of the vote in the first round.
The poll results showed none of the four main contenders for the candidacy for the ruling Socialist party even reaching the second round in the scenarios put forward, but former Prime Minister Manuel Valls is currently favourite to fill the slot.
Le Pen is a noted Eurosceptic and has promised to hold a referendum regarding France’s membership of the European Union (EU) following populist victories at the ballot box for Brexit and Donald Trump in 2016.
Noting that Fillon “succeeded in his primary by identifying himself as a man of Catholic beliefs and values and an opponent of same-sex marriage and abortion”, veteran conservative columnist Pat Buchanan has said the front-runners this year in France’s presidential election indicate that people in Europe are tired of the western model of “liberal democracy”.
Britain’s Ambassador to France Confirms He Won’t Be Meeting With Le Pen
11 Jan 2017 by Donna Rachel Edmunds
The UK’s ambassador to France has confirmed that he will not be forging links with Front National leader Marine Le Pen ahead of the French Presidential elections, as the British government has a policy of not engaging with her party.
Appearing in front of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee on Tuesday, Lord Llewellyn told MPs: “With respect to the Front National, we have a policy of not engaging, there is a longstanding policy. That is the policy, which has been the policy for many years.”
He earlier confirmed that his offices in Paris had made contact with François Fillon, the Republican candidate, and had already reached out to people within the French Socialist party ahead of the selection of their candidate.
“We know who the candidate is on the centre-right, the candidate is Monsieur Fillon, obviously we have contacts with him and his team,” he said.
“On the left we don’t know who the candidate is going to be. We will know the answer on 29 January after the second round of primaries … my team [is] in touch with people across the picture on the left.”
The chair of the committee, Conservative MP Crispin Blunt, expressed surprise at the position taken by Lord Llewellyn in relation to Ms Le Pen, considering that the National Front leader is currently polling in second place nationally, and is expected to reach the final round of polling in the Presidential elections.
Le Pen has spearheaded efforts to re-position her party as a populist party, standing up for French patriotism against the incursions of the European Union and liberalism into French life.
In December 2015 she stated: “The National Front is the only party to defend an authentic French Republic, a Republic with only one vocation: the national interest, the development of French employment, the conservation of our way of life, the development of our tradition and the defence of all the French.”
That message has seen her party surge in the polls, as evidenced by the 2014 European Parliament elections where the party enjoyed an 18.5 percent increase on their previous result, taking them from seventh place, and three seats, to first place with 24 MEPs.
That success has since been replicated in mayoral and local elections, putting Le Pen on course to become a serious challenger for the Presidential title later this year.