Tue, Feb 07, 2017 - Page 7 News List

In France, Le Pen echoes Trump’s bleak populism

NY Times News Service, LYON, France

National Front leader Marine Le Pen, center, speaks at a party gathering to launch her presidential campaign in Lyon, France, on Sunday.

Photo: Reuters

France’s far-right leader, Marine Le Pen, on Sunday delivered a grim populist start to her presidential campaign, warning thousands of flag-waving supporters of “two totalitarianisms,” globalization and Islamism, that want to “subjugate France.”

National Front leader Le Pen’s dark picture of a weakened France troubled by bureaucrats and burqas was a striking echo of themes sounded across the Atlantic. France, a prosperous country with the world’s sixth-largest economy, was depicted as a besieged wreck.

In a packed hall, she made a point, in a speech brimming with nationalist fervor, of praising US President Donald Trump and the Americans who elected him.

Americans, she said, had “kept faith with their national interest,” even as she promised to do the same for France, saying French had been “dispossessed of their patriotism.”

Whether it will sell in a country undoubtedly frightened by terrorism and weary of unemployment hovering around 10 percent is unclear, but it is certain that her party is closer than it has ever been to gaining power in France after more than 40 years of existence.

Polls show her very likely to reach at least a second round of voting in France’s two-stage electoral process this spring.

The weekend’s campaigning in the prosperous southeastern metropolis — her likely run-off opponent, Emmanuel Macron, 39, the centrist former French minister of economy, drew thousands to a rally across town Saturday — offered a taste of the electoral battle to come and a rerun of some of the US election’s dynamic.

Le Pen, 48, offered a forbidding dystopia in urgent need of radical upheaval, much like Trump; Macron — has created a non-party political movement that has caught fire — spoke of “reconciling” France, of “working together” and repeatedly addressed more than 10,000 supporters in a giant stadium as “my friends.”

France would certainly stay in the EU, in his view, and there would be none of Le Pen’s war on globalization.

In contrast to Le Pen, he took a backhanded slap at Trump, promising refuge in enlightened France to US scientists, academics and companies “fighting obscurantism” at home.

They would have, “a homeland, and that will be France,” Macron said.

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