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French right targets immigration in European election bid

By JONATHAN POWELL in London | China Daily Global | Updated: 2024-03-05 09:28

Marine Le Pen, parliamentary party leader of the French far-right National Rally (Rassemblement National-RN) party, delivers a speech during a political rally to launch the party's campaign for the European elections, in Marseille, France, March 3, 2024. [Photo/Agencies]

French far-right leader Marine Le Pen has pledged to reclaim authority from what she described as an "intrusive and authoritarian" Brussels bureaucracy, setting the tone for her party's European Parliament election campaign.

During a rally in Marseille, attended by approximately 8,000 activists, Le Pen shared the stage with Jordan Bardella, a rising star and the president of Rassemblement National, or RN, party, the frontrunner in the polls ahead of the June election, reported the Financial Times newspaper.

"I call on the French people to transform their indignation into action," Le Pen said, criticizing European Union restrictions on traditional combustion engine vehicles and other environmental regulations.

"Nations must take back the power that the EU has confiscated from them," she said.

Recent polls indicate RN, also known as National Rally, will once again be the leading French party, as it was in 2019, potentially securing a significantly larger share of the vote that could be as much as 30 percent.

That would place them comfortably ahead of the French President Emmanuel Macron's centrist alliance, which is projected to garner 18 percent of the vote, according to a February survey conducted by BVA.

In his speech, Bardella balanced criticizing Brussels with a promise to steer the EU toward the goals of the party, reported Agence France-Presse.

"It is quite clear that these European elections on June 9 represent a referendum against being inundated with migrants," Bardella told the crowd.

He said RN has enlisted Fabrice Leggeri, former head of the EU border agency Frontex, which elicited cheers from backers.

"He (Leggeri) joined the National Rally because he refused to let himself be pushed around" by Brussels, said Bardella.

Bardella also expressed admiration for farmers, who have recently disrupted highways in a bid to pressure Paris to address their concerns about wages and environmental laws.

"The French farmers' battle isn't just a fight for a profession in particular ... but for the entirety of a France that wants to preserve its identity, countryside, gastronomy, traditions," Bardella said.

A significant victory for RN would not only pose a challenge to Macron domestically, as he aims to thwart Le Pen's potential succession after his last term concludes in 2027, but also hinder his efforts in advancing a more robust and influential EU agenda, said the FT.

The paper noted that in contrast to Macron, Le Pen and Bardella presented a populist perspective of the EU, contending that countries should oppose the progression toward an "EU superstate" that was encroaching on decision-making authority in areas such as immigration, diplomacy, taxation, and defense.

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