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© Jeff Pachoud, AFP | French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen gives a campaign speech in Lyon on February 5, 2017

Video by Christopher MOORE

Text by Joseph BAMAT , special correspondent in Lyon, France

Latest update : 2017-02-06

French far-right leader Marine Le Pen on Sunday hailed Britain’s exit from the EU and Donald Trump’s victory in the US as she kicked off her own presidential campaign in the city of Lyon.

Le Pen delivered a keynote speech in front of around 4,000 supporters gathered in the city’s main conference centre, less than three months before French voters pick their next president.

“The impossible has suddenly become possible,” the far-right candidate told supporters in reference to recent surprises at the ballot box, Britain’s vote last June to leave the European Union and Trump’s November election to the US presidency.

“Other countries have shown us the way,” Le Pen declared triumphantly from the podium. “The awakening of those nations is historic and marks the end of an era. The winds of history have changed,” she proclaimed.

The leader of the anti-EU National Front pledged to organise France’s own referendum on leaving the bloc within the first six months of her term, if she is elected president.

Le Pen, 48, is favoured to win the first round of the presidential ballot on April 23, according to recent opinion polls. The same surveys nevertheless show she is unlikely to win the May 7 run-off duel, no matter whom she faces as an opponent.

Twin evils

The far-right leader said globalisation and immigration were twin evils that were destroying France’s identity and prosperity.

She warned globalisation “from below” had taken the form of massive immigration, while globalisation “from above” – the world of international finance – forced unreasonable austerity on French citizens.

Examining Le Pen's manifesto

“The old dichotomy between the left and right is over, the new battle is between patriots and globalisationists,” Le Pen said, calling on voters of all political stripes to join her campaign.

Le Pen’s speech returned repeatedly to the issue of immigration – a traditional grievance of the National Front that she has spent less time criticising in recent years.

She said that as president “no person who has entered the country illegally will be able to obtain resident status, nor become a citizen.” She also blamed immigrants for “implanting fundamentalist Islam” in the country.

‘Not the people’

Le Pen mostly ignored rival candidates in her address, despite a bitter attack from the surging centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron a day earlier.

“They are not speaking ‘In the name of the people’,” Macron told a crowd of more than 8,000 gathered in Lyon on Saturday, citing Le Pen’s campaign slogan. “They are speaking to a France that never existed.”

The leftist firebrand Jean-Luc Mélenchon – also a candidate in France’s upcoming presidential election – organised a rival rally near Lyon on Sunday in which he blasted Le Pen’s campaign promise to deny schooling to the children of undocumented migrants.

In a French presidential campaign first, Mélenchon appeared simultaneously in Lyon and – as a hologram image – in a suburb of the French capital.

Date created : 2017-02-05


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