Far right rallies faithful against EU, immigration
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France's Marine Le Pen targeted banks, "stupid" EU technocrats and vowed to cut immigration by 90% while calling for greater sovereignty for France at a Tuesday rally. Polls put the far-right leader in third place ahead of the April 22 first round.
REUTERS - French far-right chief Marine Le Pen hit out at banks, immigrants and "stupid" EU bureaucrats at a rally on Tuesday, whipping up nationalist fervour as she fights for third position in polls before France's presidential election.
With the first round of the two-stage election looming on Sunday, Le Pen called on supporters at her largest campaign meeting to date to "shout" their rage over the European Union and reassert a muscular French sovereignty.
The speech, which was broken up by cries of "This is our home!" and "Marine! Marine!", seemed designed to galvanise Le Pen's core backers as she seeks to hold third place in polls ahead of far-left candidate, Jean-Luc Melenchon.
"We will not abandon our fates to these stupid technocrats," she said, referring to the European Union officials, as a crowd of supporters waved French flags at a packed concert hall in Paris.
"I am the only candidate of the nation."
A CSA poll on Tuesday gave Le Pen 17 percent of voting intentions, placing her in third place behind President Nicolas Sarkozy with 25 percent support and Socialist candidate Francois Hollande, ranked first with 29 percent support.
All surveys show Hollande, who held a rally in the northern city of Lille at the same time as Le Pen, winning the election run-off round on May 6 against Sarkozy by a wide margin.
The CSA poll showed Le Pen two points ahead of Melenchon, who appears to be losing ground to his far-right rival despite a campaign in which he stole the spotlight from mainstream candidates with calls for a "civilian insurrection".
Le Pen and Melenchon have both shaped their campaigns around a rejection of Europe's political system, which they blame for speeding the decline of France's industrial base and strangling the domestic job market with austerity measures.
But while Melenchon says he wants to renegotiate the European Union's governing treaties, Le Pen calls for pulling France out of the euro zone, reinstating France's borders and cutting immigration by 90 percent.
"They (the other candidates) are locked in their European box," she said. "Those who claim to want change when their hands are tied by treaties... are liars or incompetent or both."
Abandoning her lectern at the end of her speech, Le Pen stood in front of a giant blue background bearing the words "Yes, France!" and told supporters: "Shout your rage, scream your hope - and get moving!"