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Down in polls, France’s Le Pen targets immigration for boost


Down in polls, France’s Le Pen targets immigration for boost

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PARIS – Far-right candidate Marine Le Pen sought on Tuesday to turn the debate in the final week of France’s presidential election to immigration as she tried to reverse a dip in polls.

Surveys of voting intentions have for months shown Le Pen and centrist Emmanuel Macron qualifying on Sunday for the May 7 run-off. But the National Front leader has been under pressure since the start of April as conservative Francois Fillon and far-leftist Jean-Luc Melenchon closed the gap on the favourites. 

Speaking to a rally in Paris on Monday, she vowed to suspend all immigration with an immediate moratorium, shield voters from globalisation and strengthen security. Those subjects won her core backing, and she hopes it can give her boost with about 30 per cent of voters still undecided.

“For several weeks, we will need to assess the situation. The reality is that immigration is massive in our country and that migration flood that we are experiencing is not a fantasy,” Le Pen told RTL radio on Tuesday as she fleshed out details of the moratorium announcement.

The measure has not been part of her programme, although she has put on record that she wants to limit annual immigration to just 10 000 people a year.

Until now, Le Pen has struggled to get her opponents in the presidential race to debate her party’s trademark tough security and immigration stance. She, by contrast, has been put on the defensive over her position on leaving the euro zone, a proposal that lacks wide support.

Two polls on Tuesday showed Fillon and Melenchon still a few percentage points away from Le Pen and Macron. She would be beaten by any of the three others in a run-off, polls have repeatedly shown. (Reuters)