Le Pen Sees His Cause Catching on
French Far-Right Leader’s Party Predicted to Fare Well in Regional Ballots
Keith B. Richburg, washingtonpost.com, Mar. 8
PARIS — Two years after he shocked the French political establishment with a second-place finish in the country’s presidential election, the far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen is once again hoping to embarrass the elite and confound the pundits with a stronger-than-expected showing by his National Front party in regional elections later this month.
“The National Front is going to reach 20 percent nationally,” a beaming Le Pen predicted, in the sitting room of his palatial home in the suburban hills of Saint-Cloud, west of Paris.
“Everybody is opposed to the National Front,” he said. “Everybody is hostile. But despite that, we continue to grow.”
Pollsters and political analysts do not disagree, though most estimated the National Front’s strength at around 15 or 16 percent of the vote. Analysts here are wary of making predictions, since the National Front in the past has demonstrated an ability to surprise; it usually makes its gains in the final weeks of campaigning, and voters who favor the far-right are often reluctant to identify themselves in opinion polls.
Le Pen himself will not be on the ballot, the first round of which will be on March 21. He had sought to run for the governor’s post in the southern region called Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur, or PACA, but was disqualified because of a technicality.
The far-right leader, however, is hoping to turn even his disqualification into electoral advantage, saying it shows how the elite so fears him that it is willing to use any means to block his political ascent. “I am a victim,” he said in an interview. “I was prevented from presenting myself” as a candidate.