Le Pen hardens line against immigration as voting nears
Far right leader vows to halt ‘interlopers,’ expel those in nation illegally
MARSEILLE, France — Slipping in polls in the final days before the start of France’s presidential voting on Sunday, far-right leader Marine Le Pen is rallying her base by hardening a line — already very hard — on her principal campaign theme: immigration.
At her party’s campaign rally Wednesday night in Marseille, a city where immigrants are omnipresent, Le Pen, leader of the National Front, vowed to clamp down on immigration, expel those in the country illegally and make France “more French.”
The tough talk was met with thunderous chants of “This is our home!” from a hall packed with 5,000 supporters waving French flags, many bused in from all over southern France.
“Just watch the interlopers from all over the world come and install themselves in our home,” she said.
“But it’s up to the owner to decide who can come in,” Le Pen said. “So our first act will be to restore France’s frontiers.”
The tough words were intended to shore up her flagging poll numbers as the campaign closes. Polls once showed her at 30 percent support in the 11candidate field, but her support fell as doubts about her readiness to govern grew.
Two men who were thought to be also-rans — Jean Luc Melenchon of the far left and Francois Fillon of the center right — have been catching up and are within 3 points of her.
Le Pen is still expected to emerge Sunday as one of the two finalists for the May 7 runoff, a breakthrough for the far right in France. Polls predict a loss for her in the second round.
But Le Pen is not taking the first round for granted.
On Wednesday, she promised a “moratorium” on immigration “as soon as I take office”; an end to family reunifications, the policy of allowing into the country family members of immigrants; the expulsion of immigrants who are in France illegally — “because it is the law”; and a cutoff of medical help to unauthorized immigrants. All the proposals met with roars of approval.
Slipping in the polls
in advance of Sunday’s presidential voting, far right leader Marine Le Pen vowed at a Marseille rally Thursday to make France “more French.”