Terrorist attacks and immigration debates push French voters to the right, spur Le Pen – .

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Terrorist attacks and immigration debates push French voters to the right, spur Le Pen – .



L’ISLE-SUR-LA-SORGUE, France — Landlocked between the tributaries of the rivers of south-eastern France, L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue is known for its cobbled streets and its sun-drenched open-air market. .

But ahead of Sunday’s local elections, debate in this small town, and others across France, centered on the fallout from the beheading of a teacher near Paris last fall by a Chechen refugee. as well as the murder of worshipers in Nice weeks later by a Tunisian migrant.

All over France, questions about the place of Islam in French society and tensions over immigration have come to concern many French people and have pushed the electorate to the right.
In response, the centrist government of President Emmanuel Macron has leaned towards more conservative policies, cracking down on mosques and other Islamic organizations that it says practice Islamist separatism, Mr. Macron’s term for what the government says is. a movement that seeks to override civil laws. with the religious.

But the turn to the right of the electorate has especially favored Marine Le Pen, leader of the anti-immigration party Rassemblement national. Ms Le Pen has long blamed a spate of attacks in recent years on what she sees as soft immigration policies which she says are allowing radical currents of Islam to take root in the country and d ‘fueling violence – a link the Macron government rejects.

French President Emmanuel Macron met with soldiers after a knife attack in Nice last year.

Photo:
Eric Gaillard / Pool

A recent opinion poll showed that 71% of French people were opposed to welcoming new immigrants, up from 64% in 2018. The proportion of respondents who believe that welcoming migrants increases the risk of terrorist attacks is also increased from 53% to 64%, according to the poll.

“We need more security and less immigration,” said Bruno Ducres, 62, who sold earthenware and pottery at the outdoor market in L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue an after -recent midday. As millions of French people vote on Sunday in regional elections across the country, Mr Ducres said he plans to vote for Ms Le Pen’s candidate, Thierry Mariani, who has built a comfortable lead in the polls reflecting the anti-immigration message.

“He says out loud what other people think for themselves,” Ducres said.

Ms Le Pen is trying to position her party as the standard bearer of conservative politics by recruiting candidates with establishment credentials and focusing public debate on civic issues such as security, immigration and Islam radical that divide the centrist ranks of Mr. Macron. In an email to supporters last month, Ms Le Pen issued an ‘appeal to all sincere conservative figures’, calling on them to unite behind her attempt to challenge Mr Macron in the year’s national elections. next.

The approach is part of Ms Le Pen’s efforts to reassure voters that she and other leaders of her National Rally party have turned the page on the party’s anti-Semitic past and are ready to rule. Mr. Mariani, 62, was a pillar of the conservative Les Républicains party, having served as a minister under President Nicolas Sarkozy, before Ms. Le Pen asked him to run for the presidency of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, a nested region between the Mediterranean Sea and the Alps in the south-east of France.

Marine Le Pen and Thierry Mariani campaigned Thursday in Six-Four-les-Plages.

Photo:
christophe simon / Agence France-Presse / Getty Images

A victory for Mariani would place Ms. Le Pen’s party at the head of a regional government for the first time. It would also indicate that she is able to overcome the republican front, the decades-old tactic of establishment parties uniting behind a single candidate to defeat far-right candidates. Mr Macron claimed victory in 2017 after longtime rivals Les Republicans and the Socialist Party threw their support behind him.

Republicans and the Socialist Party have questioned their willingness to unite behind Mr Macron when he takes on Ms Le Pen in the spring of 2022. A Harris Interactive poll of 1,295 people conducted between June 4 and June 7 reported shown that Ms. Le Pen. Le Pen collecting 47% of the votes in a second round with Mr. Macron against 53% for the outgoing. That’s a much narrower margin than Mr Macron’s victory of 66% to 34% in 2017.

“I gave Macron a chance, but I won’t make the same mistake twice. I will vote for Marine Le Pen next year, ”said Marie-Claude Sureda, a 66-year-old retiree from the port city of Marseille.

For regional races, Mr. Macron tried to plug the cracks in the republican front. His party supported the Republican candidate, Renaud Muselier, instead of presenting his own candidate against Mr. Mariani in Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur.

Mr Mariani has sought to turn Mr Macron’s support into political responsibility, describing Mr Muselier as a buddy of the president who he says is forgiving of crime. Sitting in a cafe outside a tree-lined plaza, Mr Mariani said he had no choice but to leave Les Républicains to stay true to himself.

“Today, they are constantly betraying their convictions to get closer to Macron,” Mariani said of his former party. Ms. Le Pen, he said, “has the clearest electoral platform when it comes to what matters: security, immigration, justice. And she will have the courage to go all the way.

Mr Muselier said an alliance with Mr Macron was the only way to beat the National Rally, adding: “There are historic moments that demand that we come together. “

Mr. Macron’s party supported Renaud Muselier in the competition against Mr. Mariani instead of presenting its own candidate.

Photo:
nicolas tucat / Agence France-Presse / Getty Images

An Ipsos Sopra Steria poll of 1,000 people carried out between June 3 and 7 showed that Mr. Mariani finished first in the first round of the election with 41% of the vote, ahead of Mr. Muselier with 34%. The coalition of Socialists and Greens collected 15% in the poll.

In the second round, which is due to take place next Sunday, the same poll showed Mr Mariani ahead of Mr Muselier, whether the Socialists and Greens support him or not.

Mr. Mariani is a familiar face in L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue. He grew up in a nearby town where he served as mayor for a decade and a half, and represented the region in the National Assembly until 2017, when he lost his seat.

As a member of the Republicans, Mr. Mariani was a staunch supporter of stricter immigration policies. He proposed in vain an amendment to the French constitution that would have allowed the authorities to strip convicted criminals of their French nationality. Mr Mariani also stood out for his support of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russia’s annexation of Crimea, as well as his frequent visits to Syria, where he met with President Bashar al-Assad.

In 2019, Ms. Le Pen recruited him to run on the National Rally ticket for the European legislative elections, where he won a seat.

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A victory in Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur could encourage other establishment politicians to join Ms Le Pen, said Christian Montagard, who recently left Les Républicains and is running in a ballot race on the ticket. Mr. Mariani. It could also help Ms Le Pen advance her party’s hijacking of legacy as a movement rooted in xenophobic and nativist rhetoric. She expelled her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, who once described the Nazi gas chambers as a “detail” of WWII history, and renamed the party Front National, her nickname under her dad.

“The National Rally has nothing to do with the National Front. It is now a party like any other, ”said Mr. Montagard.

Write to Noémie Bisserbe at [email protected]

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