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Le Pen prepared to back socialists in French elections

Far right leader Marine le Pen has refused to rule out the possibility of supporting socialist candidates in June’s parliamentary elections. Some accuse her of being ‘incoherent’ but others see it as a canny ploy in her quest to rule the right.


The divisive French far-right leader Marine le Pen this week refused to rule out the possibility of calling on her supporters to vote for a socialist candidate in next month’s parliamentary elections.

In what marks a change of strategy, Le Pen declared this week that in ‘exceptional’ circumstances she was prepared to lend her backing to not only a conservative UMP candidate but even a socialist nominee in the key second round ballot on June 17.

Her declaration is the first time the National Front has ever made eyes towards the French left. The far right has however, made pre-election alliances in the past with the French right, always with the sole aim of beating the socialists.

Le Pen’s statement is a marked shift from the position she took after April 22’s first round of the presidential election when she declined to publicly endorse either candidate for the run –off vote.

Bidding to be kingmaker

Bidding for the role of chief kingmaker, she said she will hand out her endorsements on a ‘case by case’ basis depending on the ‘morality’ of the candidates and only if her own candidate does not make it through to the second round.

The leader of the anti-immigration National Front is also prepared to ask voters to help defeat those candidates she sees as “noxious or dangerous for France”. Le Pen did not however name any names.

“We will not rule anything out. There are a certain number of candidates who are sincere and correct and who act with regard for the French people and refuse to vote for those things that are against the interests of France,” Le Pen told reporters at a press conference in Metz on Tuesday.

Just as in the presidential election when many saw Le Pen’s refusal to endorse Nicolas Sarkozy as a contributing factor in his defeat, it now looks like the UMP are set to lose out once again.

Will take place on June 10 and 17, in a two-round vote. All 577 seats in the lower-house National Assembly are being contested. With 305 seats, the Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) is currently the majority party in parliament. The UMP has led France’s most important legislative body for the past 10 years.

UMP leaders are clearly concerned by the perceived resurgence of the far right. Earlier this month, the party’s secretary general Jean Francois-Copé warned voters that casting a ballot for the far right would simply allow the left in through the back door.

Ruling a new right

Far-right specialist Sylvain Crépon from the University of Nanterre, West Paris said Le Pen’s new found pragmatism is simply part of her long term ploy to become the dominant force on the French right.

“The national front is seeking to sow discord,” he said. “Calling on followers to vote for the Socialist Party to oust certain right wing candidates creates panic among the UMP and plays in to the hands of her own party.

“Jean-Francois Cope’s party knows that if they are defeated in the elections it faces a possible implosion, which would benefit the Front National.”

Le Pen, whose party has been re-branded Marine Blue United for the parliamentary elections would then be in a strong position to demand certain conditions when a new right wing party is created, Crépon explains.

‘One deputy would be a success’

Le Pen, however, ruled out the possibility of asking her voters to back a candidate from the far left Front de Gauche party, whose leader Jean-Luc Melenchon will stand against her in her own constituency of Henin-Beaumont in northern France.

Population: 124,641 (1999 census)

Henin-Beaumont is located near the Belgian border in northern France, a region blighted by high unemployment.

Since its creation in 1986, the electoral district has always been represented by left-wing politicians.

Marine Le Pen moved to Henin-Beaumont in 2007. She was elected as municipal councillor in March 2008.

Le Pen could be heading for an embarrassing defeat with recent opinion polls putting her nemesis Melenchon on course for victory in the second round ballot.

There could be success elsewhere for the National Front which is looking to win their first seat in France’s lower house since 1986.

Strategists for Marine Blue United say they are hoping as many as 90 candidates will gain the 12.5 percent of the first round vote to qualify for the second ballot. Their ideal scenario would envisage between five and 10 National Front deputies in the National Assembly.

“Even one would be a success, considering we don’t have any at the moment,” said Le Pen.

The first round of voting will take place on June 10 with the second round one week later.

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