Wednesday, February 21

“If the people vote, the people win”

The far right candidate Marine LePen reaches the first round of French presidential election next Sunday in high spirits. The biggest threat to her candidacy, the irruption in the electoral race of the ultra polemicist Eric Zemmour, has ended up going from strength to strength and the latest polls place her in a comfortable second position (with 24% of the vote, only 2, 5% of the president, Emmanuel Macron), a result that, if confirmed at the polls, will give him the pass to a new duel with Macron in the second round. And that moral could be seen this Thursday in Perpinyaone of the strongholds of his party, National Rally (RN)where he has gathered some 3,000 devoted supporters in the last rally before the elections this Sunday.

Le Pen has reiterated in Perpinyà the key themes of his campaign: the fight against the loss of purchasing powerthe need to return to France its grandeurthe immigration referendum and the stabs against Macron’s management, especially after the McKinsey scandal, according to which the president and his government abusively resorted to that US external advisory firm in recent years and which has gone to court. Not a word for Zemmour.

She has presented herself as the only candidate capable of “regaining stability and the joie de vivre” and “restore the organization and authority of the State.” Regarding immigration, Le Pen has insisted that if he wins he will hold a referendum to “solve problems that no one has wanted to solve in 40 years.” “It is the French who must decide who is worthy of being French and having the privilege of entering the national community. Being French is not an administrative situation, it is an honor“, has manifested.

During her speech, Le Pen has also made a lot of emphasis on the need to go to the polls this Sunday. “If the people vote, the people win (…). Let’s take back control!”, He has stressed for several moments to ward off the ghost of the abstention. “We are going to win,” the attendees have responded, who have chanted “Marine, president!” on numerous occasions.

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Convinced of victory

“It is important to be here today, it is the last rally before the first round,” Valéry Elophe, regional councilor for New Aquitaine by RN and resident of Corrèze, a town 400 kilometers from Perpinyà, explained to EL PERIÓDICO before starting the event. . Elophe is convinced of Le Pen’s triumph for absence of the opponent. “Macron has not campaigned, while Marine Le Pen has campaigned very well on important issues for citizens,” she stresses, shortly before a nearby group starts singing The marsellesa.

“Le Pen’s vision is ours: France must be changed. I want a prosperous France and now we are in ruins,” says a 65-year-old woman from Perpinyà who prefers not to say her name. “We have had enough of Macron-Jupiter,” say the Danis, mother and daughter, who have come from Montpellier to attend the rally. They refer to the “Jupiterine” presidency for which Macron himself advocates against a governance closer to the citizen such as that carried out by the socialist François Hollande.

Something similar is the opinion of Nicolas Caudeville, a local journalist and blogger from Perpinyà, who emphasizes the mismanagement, in his opinion, of the French president: “If Le Pen wins it will be because of the despair of the people, for absence of future“.

It was precisely in Perpinyà, the largest city in the hands of RN and governed by his ex-partner and architect of the party’s moderate turn that began more than a decade ago, Louis Aliot, where the ultra candidate kicked off her candidacy on July 4, three weeks after the crash in the regionals. That day she already warned her against the danger of abstention (in the regionals she was a historic 66%), which would penalize her if she reached the second round against Macron. During the last half century, abstention has been gradually climbing and in the 2017 presidential elections it was 22.23% in the first round and 25.44% in the second.

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The far-right leader has carried out a pragmatic campaign, without insisting too much on the most controversial issues of security, immigration and Islam, and pivoting most of her speeches on the issue of purchasing power. The impact on inflation of rise in energy prices and the war in ukraine They have served as a catalyst. According to the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (Insee), the CPI for the month of March rose to 4.5%, compared to 3.5% in February.

“You have chosen a topic crossthat of purchasing power, in order precisely to be able rassamblerunify, gather to people beyond the support of their traditional electorate”, especially with a view to the second round, explains Moussa Bourekba, a researcher at the Barcelona Center for International Affairs (Cidob). Raquel García, from the Elcano Royal Institute, agrees when highlighting that Le Pen has known”channel discontent” and run a campaign focused “on the issues of concern to the voter.”

Third try

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This is Le Pen’s third attempt to reach the Elysee and in these 11 years since she took the reins of the party, she has been working on her image as a “presidential woman” (“woman of state”, can be read on her electoral posters ) and in the “softening” of the controversial speeches of his father and founder of the National Front (RN’s former name), Jean Marie Le Pen, Bourekba stresses. “Within this softening process, you couldn’t do him a better favor than the appearance of Eric Zemmour (…). What has happened unthinkable: envision Marine Le Pen as a candidate reasonable to propose a realistic program and to some extent even tolerant in certain aspects”, adds this analyst.

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For his part, García points out that aside from agreeing with Zemmour on issues such as immigration, one of the elements that has contributed to his more moderate image is the abandonment of rhetoric against leaving the euro and the EU and his more tolerant attitude towards the gay marriage and the themes LGBTI. “A rival has appeared to her right that has helped her to be perceived more in the center,” emphasizes the researcher at the Elcano Royal Institute.

The difficult test of the second round

the pass of Marine LePen in the second round it is taken for granted, according to what the electoral polls predict. However, victory in the final election on April 24 seems much more complicated, despite the fact that with each passing day the distance between her and the president is reduced, Emmanuel Macron, and that her name is increasingly heard as a future tenant of the Elysee. “Of course she can win,” the former prime minister said a few days ago. Edward Philippe.

“I don’t think I have a chance of winning,” explains Moussa Bourekba, a Cidob researcher. In his opinion, in the second round there will be a lot of abstention since the left-wing voters will prefer to stay at home for the most part. “A Le Pen-Macron duel for them is like choose between plague and cholera“, he points out.

Raquel García, from the Elcano Royal Institute, is of the same opinion. In her opinion, times of uncertainty such as the current one, with the ukrainian war monopolizing the public debate and after the experience with the pandemic, “they favor the candidate who is governing.” In addition, he adds, Macron “is a centrist candidate who knows how to bring together a spectrum of the larger electorate.”

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