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French presidential election 2017: Who is Marine Le Pen? Pledging to close extremist mosques and reduce immigration

The leader of France’s far-right National Front (FN) Party, Marine Le Pen is one of the front-runners in the French Presidential Election 2017. The 48-year-old politician has reshaped the far-right party as an anti-establishment movement and changed its image from a fringe movement of xenophobes, nationalists and former Nazi collaborators when it was created in the early 1970s.

The far-right presidential candidate, is projected to win the first round of voting in the French presidential election in April, though pollsters predict she would lose in the run-off.

Born in 1968 in Neuilly-Sur-Seine, west of Paris, Marine Le Pen is a lawyer and showed interest in politics from an early age. She accompanied her father to rallies and joined the National Front when she was just 18.

In 1998, Le Pen was first elected to a regional post, marking this the beginning of her political career. As she rose through the party’s ranks, becoming vice-president, a member of the European Parliament and then a member of the French Parliament, Le Pen tried to soften the party’s image , which lead to tensions with her own father.

In 2011, Le Pen took over the National Front and in 2013 she excluded her father from the party after he claimed that the Nazi gas chambers had been but a detail of history.

The 48-year-old is twice divorced and has three children from her first marriage.

marine le pen

Marine Le Pen is running under the slogan “In the name of the people”, and her supporters at rallies are often heard chanting “On est chez nous” (“We are in our land”).

The Front National agenda strongly promotes traditional Front National themes: national sovereignty, law and order, anti-immigration, and anti-elites.

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An exponent of the wave of populism increasingly popular across Europe an America, Le Pen has welcomed both Brexit and the election of Donald Trump.

She speaks out against what she calls the “two totalitarianisms” of the new millennium: globalisation and Islamic fundamentalism.

French presidential elections 2017 - Marine Le Pen
Photo: Facebook/Marine Le Pen

If elected, Le Pen promised to pull France out of the Eurozone and reshape alliances the European partners. Le Pen wants France to leave the EU’s Schengen zone, reintroduce national borders and boost customs controls. She also would like to withdraw France from NATO’s integrated command.

Domestically, the far-right politician plans to lower the retirement age to 60, increase taxes on imports and job contracts for foreigners as well as reduce immigration to a quota of 10,000 people a year.

Included in the presidential manifesto are pledges to ban organisations and deport all foreigners linked to Islamist fundamentalists, close extremist mosques and stop their financing from abroad, ban the public financing of cults, and fight jihadist networks by stripping bi-nationals of their French citizenship and via deportations and preventative detention.

Many commentators found similarities between Marine Le Pen and president Donald Trump given their views on free trade, NATO and migration and she believes that his victory in the American election will clear the way for her own in France.

Key points in the programme of Marine Le Pen

France’s far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen has spelled out her policy plans in a manifesto of 144 proposals which include leaving the euro currency and holding a vote on European Union membership, according to Reuters.

Here are her main proposals for the presidential election to be held on April 23 and May 7. If elected president, Le Pen would also have to win parliamentary elections in June to be able to carry out most of her plans.

Plans to renegotiate France’s role in the EU or go for Frexit

Election to be immediately followed by six months of talks with EU partners to radically change France’s membership and turn the bloc into a loose cooperative of countries: no more euro, border-free area, EU budget rules or pre-eminence of EU law.

Referendum on EU membership at the end of six months. Le Pen to recommend leaving if she does not manage to radically change the bloc from the inside, so most likely scenario is “Frexit.” She has said she would resign if she asks voters to leave the EU and they vote otherwise.

Leave the Euro

The manifesto gives no details on an exit from the euro currency — which it says would mean regaining France’s monetary “sovereignty.” Le Pen has said this should be discussed at the end of the EU talks, after Germany’s parliamentary elections in September. She says she will ditch the euro only if voters agree to do so in the referendum.

A top FN official says the move would go together with re-denominating the debt stock in the new currency, having the central bank defend the new currency and giving the government the right to order the central bank to buy its bonds.

Would be accompanied by some form of loose monetary cooperation which would, among other things, be able to manage exchange rate fluctuations.

Plans for the first two months

Le Pen said that, without waiting for the outcome of EU negotiations, she would immediately suspend France’s membership of the Schengen border-free area and put back passport checks at its borders with its EU neighbours.

Among 10 reforms she would carry out within her first two months in power are:

– expulsion of all foreigners being monitored by intelligence services

– stripping dual citizens of their French nationality when convicted of links with jihadism

– cutting the lower three income tax brackets by 10 percent

– denying free access to basic healthcare to illegal migrants.

Protectionism and “National preference”

Public procurement to be open only to French firms as long as the price difference is not too large.

“Intelligent protectionism” includes a 3 percent tax on imports.

Reject international trade treaties.

Reserve certain rights now available to all residents, including free education, to French citizens only, which would be put to voters via referendum.

Employers who hire foreigners would pay an extra tax. It would be worth 10 percent of the salary, Le Pen’s deputy Florian Philippot said.

Security and defence

Hire 15,000 police, build jails to make room for another 40,000 inmates.

Automatically expel foreigners who have been convicted.

Leave NATO’s integrated military command, boost defence spending.

Immigration

Make it impossible for illegal migrants to legalise their stay in France.

Curb asylum for requests made abroad in French consulates.

Make it much harder to become a French citizen. Being born in France would not confer right to citizenship anymore.

Curb migration to a net 10,000 people per year.

Economic targets

Targets GDP growth of 2 percent in 2018, well above the Bank of France’s 1.4 percent forecast.

The FN sees GDP growth at 2.5 percent per year by the end of the five-year mandate. Sees inflation at 2.5 percent in 2020.

Says to cut taxes for households and increase welfare benefits. Budget hole to be plugged by savings from effectively fighting social security fraud and tax evasion, changes in EU policy, new migration policy and administrative reform.

Sees the public deficit at 4.5 percent of GDP in 2018, down to 1.3 percent at the end of the mandate in 2022. Says debt to be cut to 89 percent of GDP by 2022.

Lower taxes and better welfare

Cut payroll tax for very small and medium-sized businesses and lower the corporate tax rate for them.

Lower retirement age to 60 from the present 62, increase aid to the very poor elderly. Give child benefits to all without conditions. Cut by 5 percent the regulated price of gas and electricity.

Keep the working week to 35 hours, make overtime tax-free.

Alexa Stewart