Marine Le Pen believes she has the best chance on her third attempt

Paris Marine Le Pen goes into the third round with a beaming smile: The 53-year-old right-wing extremist politician wants to run again in the presidential elections in France in spring 2022. Le Pen is more confident than ever before. “The time has come,” she says. In Fréjus in the south of France, she was celebrated in the Roman theater. 900 supporters waved French flags and kept shouting: “Marine President.”

She has already started her election campaign while President Emmanuel Macron is still waiting. At the party meeting last Sunday, she even handed over the head of her Rassemblement National (RN) party to her vice-president, Jordan Bardella, who was only 26 years old. A tactical move: Le Pen can announce that it will now represent all French and strip away its right-wing extremist image. Your election poster also shows a change. Instead of a strict dark blue, one of the French national colors, she is now wearing a light blue jacket that looks softer.

But the picture is deceptive. The daughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen, founder of the Front National (FN) party, uses symbols to refine her image. She is the youngest of the three daughters of Le Pen, who for decades before her was the face of the far right in France. She studied law at the elite University of Paris Panthéon-Assas and specialized in criminal law. For several years, the divorced mother of three tried to be a lawyer, but was ostracized because of her name and quickly joined the party.

In 2011 she took over the presidency of the party and a few years later expelled her father because he was too radical for her. As early as 2015, “Time” listed her among the 100 most important personalities in the world. Since taking office, she has transformed the party’s image. Her father’s fascist theses have become a taboo. She pursued a strategy of “de-diabolization” and thereby won new layers of voters in the middle-class camp, especially women. But she always emphasizes: “We are neither on the right nor on the left.”

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In 2017, she came into the runoff election with Emmanuel Macron in the presidential election, in 2012 she was third in the first ballot behind François Hollande and Nicolas Sarkozy in third place. In 2012, she received 17.9 percent of the votes in the first ballot, in 2017 already 21.3 percent, Macron 24 percent. In the runoff election against Macron she received 33.9 percent of the vote, Macron 66.1 percent.

Head to head with President Macron in polls

She hopes for more with the new attempt. She cites the social and economic problems in France, which culminated in months of yellow vests demonstrations, and the crisis the EU has been in since the pandemic, as reasons why it could win. Le Pen proclaims: “This time it is not about the choice of a society, but that of an entire civilization.”

Surveys see her going head-to-head with President Emmanuel Macron. This is also due to the fact that there are still no selected candidates in the other major parties. Marine Le Pen likes the duel idea and she likes to take it further. He is a “globalizer”, she says, while she is a “pragmatic sovereignist”. You pursue the national idea and be the voice of the people who call for freedom.

Their slogan is “Libertés, libertés chéries” (Freedoms, beloved freedoms), an allusion to the French national anthem Marseillaise. She rushes again and again, Macron have taken the French with the medical passport and restrictions in the Covid-19 pandemic.

Her goals have hardly changed, even if she changed the party name from Front National to Rassemblement National. She continues to rely on strict rules on immigration and more security in the country. She wants to make 22 proposals for a “peaceful France”. Among other things, she wants to nationalize the highways so that the fees for them are reduced, and deport migrants. In a thunderous voice, she shouted luridly into the crowd in Fréjus: “We’ll put foreign criminals on the plane.”

Le Pen’s criticism of the “dictatorship” of the EU

These slogans please their followers. She is also calling for a referendum on immigration. In other respects, however, it is more open. Frexit and an exit from the euro are no longer her goal, even if she criticizes the “dictatorship” of the EU. French law should take precedence over European law in the future. “The most important thing is our independence,” says Le Pen. Freedom for France means representing the interests of your own country – France first.

Ironically, Le Pen is now facing competition from the right wing. The moderator and author Éric Zemmour, convicted on several occasions for “inciting racial hatred”, got into discussion for a presidential candidacy. He could take away her votes, according to surveys even seven percent, because he represents migration issues even more radically. He could thwart their goal of getting the highest percentage of all candidates in the first ballot, which would almost amount to a win for Le Pen. Because that way she could keep reproaching the winner of the runoff election with the fact that she was the real winner – and that the voice of the people was being disregarded.

More: Regional elections: Macron and Le Pen win the election