Marine Le Pen has promised to bring patriotism back to France in the wake of Brexit in Britain and Trump’s popularity in America, exclaiming to her supporters: “The time of the nation state is back!”
Addressing supporters at a gala dinner at the party’s recent convention, standing behind a podium bearing her campaign slogan “In the people’s name”, Ms. Le Pen laid the basis for her 2017 presidential bid – at one point parading with a trained eagle on her arm.
Praising Britain for its recent vote to leave the European Union (EU) and warning of the dangers of the EU’s policies on mass migration and multiculturalism, she pledged to defend French identity and restore National sovereignty to France, The Guardian has reported.
And she spoke warmly of a return to “the time of borders”, praising fellow European nations for erecting fences to stem the migrant flow currently engulfing the region, in what may also have been a nod to the Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump’s promise to “build a wall” along America’s border with Mexico.
Although polls unfailingly show Ms. Le Pen making it to the final round of the French presidential elections next May, she is widely expected to be beaten by the rival candidate thanks to left and right working together to shut her out. The tactic has been described by one Lille party worker as “the onslaught of an armada”.
Ms. Le Pen is confident, however, that she can broaden her appeal sufficiently to win. “With the designation of Trump in the US, and Brexit, analysts should be a bit more modest, there’s a global awakening,” she said.
She plans to run a “joyous” campaign, and is already using the pre-election period to detoxify her image. When the Republican leader and former President Nikolas Sarkozy sought to steal her support by controversially calling for all those suspected of radicalisation to be jailed – even if they haven’t yet committed a crime – she argued for protecting the rule of law.
And she aims to capitalise on the surge of French patriotism, using Brexit as an example to her compatriots.
Nicolas Bay, the party’s secretary general, said that the popularity of Brexit and Trump are helping Ms. Le Pen’s cause. “It shows French people that there’s a patriotic dynamic that goes well beyond France. There’s a springtime of the people.”
National Front MP Gilbert Collard pointed out that, although the party may be unpalatable to some, there is little doubt that it speaks to the problems France is facing. “Who in France can say that everything’s going well, that the economy’s good, that there’s security, that terrorism has been controlled, the nation preserved?” he said.
“If you look at our whole diagnosis of society’s ills – you can hate us, but everyone knows that our ideas are being taken up and reproduced by everyone else.”