LYON, France (AP) — Britain’s decision to leave the European Union and the election of U.S. President Donald Trump have given the French a “reason to vote” because it can result in real change, the top lieutenant for French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen declared Sunday ahead of her long-awaited speech.
Le Pen supporters were pouring into the congress center in Lyon on Sunday, the second day of a conference by her anti-immigrant National Front party. She will be speaking about her 144 presidential promises unveiled a day earlier, a nationalist agenda aimed at throwing off the European Union, NATO and the status quo.
National Front official Florian Philippot said people who thought voting “served nothing” because it brought no change now have proof that an alternative is possible. He says he likes Trump’s tweets because they “break the politically correct” mold.
He claimed that National Front membership rose after Brexit and again after the Trump victory but gave no figures.
In her platform Saturday, Le Pen envisioned a thriving nation “made in France,” with its citizens first in line for state services and the state unshackled by the rules-laden European Union. Among her promises: No more membership in NATO’s integrated command. No more euro currency, European Union or open borders. Immigration, especially by Muslims, would be contained. And no more second chances for foreigners under surveillance as suspected potential terrorists — those thousands would be expelled.
The French would guard their own borders, spend francs instead of euros, defend themselves and give priority to French citizens for public housing and other services over EU citizens and immigrants.
Philippot conceded Sunday that Le Pen’s program would mean a “slight increase” in the nation’s debt in the first year if she is elected in the two-round presidential election on April 23 and May 7. Le Pen’s plan calls for adding 15,000 police, 6,000 customs officers to guard borders and more hospital workers. But she hopes those expenses would be countered by outing fiscal fraud, decreasing immigrants and their ability to automatically access social services as well as doing away with regional councils and reducing the number of French lawmakers.
“We’re going to relaunch growth by economic patriotism,” Philippot told reporters.
Unlike Trump, Le Pen isn’t a new quantity in French politics — she has headed the National Front since 2011 and came in third in the presidential vote in 2012.
Early polls consistently show Le Pen among France’s two top presidential candidates, but suggest she’ll lose by a wide margin in the May 7 runoff.
The candidate just two weeks ago considered the most likely to beat Le Pen and win, former conservative Prime Minister Francois Fillon, has seen his support plummet as French prosecutors investigate possibly fictitious parliamentary aide jobs once held by his wife and two children.
Former budget minister Emmanuel Macron, who rebelled against the Socialist Party to strike out on his own, could end up facing Le Pen in the second-round vote. Macron, a centrist, also chose Lyon for a rally this weekend, as did leftist presidential candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon.
Also running is leftist Benoit Hamon, who easily beat former Prime Minister Manuel Valls to be the Socialist Party’s presidential candidate.