Le Pen Ready to Be ‘Crucified’ for France as She Slides in Polls – Bloomberg

Far-right candidate Marine Le Pen pulled all the stops to stem her slide in the polls, saying she’s willing to be “crucified” for her stance on absolving France for the wartime deportation of Jews, and pledging to protect the country from Islamic fundamentalists.

Nine days before the first round of the presidential vote, the 48-year-old anti-immigration candidate touched on well-worn themes that most strike a chord with her electorate: Islam, immigration, national identity and terrorism. The populist leader linked protecting citizens, including women and Jews, with fighting radical Muslims at home.

Marine Le Pen

“I don’t want France to be damaged, to be humiliated, that it be held responsible when it is not responsible,” Le Pen said in a Friday interview on France Info radio. “People can crucify me, I will not change my mind, I will always defend France.”

The National Front candidate’s lead in the polls has been whittled away over the last few weeks, leaving her struggling to regain momentum. First-round support for both Le Pen and independent candidate Emmanuel Macron slipped 0.5 points to respectively 23.5 percent and 22.5 percent, according to a daily rolling poll by Ifop on Thursday. Le Pen was at 26.5 percent in mid-March. The top four candidates in the presidential race are all within striking distance of the runoff, should they garner enough votes in the first round on April 23.

“Le Pen is hammering away at the two issues of wartime deportations and Muslim fundamentalism because she is trying to refocus the campaign on her strong points, the key motivations for her electors,” Bruno Jeanbart, deputy chief executive of French pollster Opinionway, said in a telephone interview.

Tightening Race

He said the slight slide in Le Pen’s support could be due both to the race tightening closer to the voting date, and to minor protest candidates stealing votes from her.

“A worry for Le Pen is that voter participation could turn out to be strong, and she would need more votes to get through to the runoff,” he said. “People are going to rallies, watching the TV debates, there’s suspense and many people will think their vote will count.”

Meanwhile, Le Pen maintained her contention that France had no responsibility for the 1942 roundup of Jews in and around Paris by French police at the request of the German occupying forces to be sent to concentration camps. Le Pen, who first made that comment on April 9, was reverting to the long-established party line that shuns any hint of repentance.

Le Pen said she is “extremely sensitive to the martyrdom of the Jews,” adding that the only issue was “juridical,” whether the Vichy regime was France or not. “I consider that Vichy was not France. French people can commit crimes without France being criminal.”

Attacking Rivals

Her rivals are “incapable” of protecting the French from Muslim fundamentalism, Le Pen said in the interview, pledging to expel “the day after my election” foreign nationals on a security list for suspected links to radical Muslim groups.

At a rally in the village of Pageas in central France on Thursday, Le Pen’s nervousness was visible. For the first time she attacked Jean-Luc Melenchon, the far-left candidate who’s gaining in the polls. She said he would add 100 billion euros in taxes and quipped that “with him everyone will be equal because everyone will be poor.”

Le Pen replied curtly in her radio interview when queried about French investigative magistrates asking the European parliament to lift her immunity over her use of a European parliamentary allowance to pay for party work in France. 

“It’s normal, it’s a completely standard procedure,” she said. “I’m not surprised.”

Asked whether she would abandon politics if she loses the presidential election, Le Pen fired back: “No, I am not like Macron, I am not one-shot. I fight for my country and I will always fight for my country.”

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