Le Pen Goes Back to Basics With Immigration Referendum
After trying to moderate her image for months, far-right leader Marine Le Pen went back to basics by casting a national conversation about immigration as a battle for the soul of France and renewing a pledge to hold a referendum on the issue if she defeats Emmanuel Macron next year.
“The April 2022 election will be about our civilization,” Le Pen said during a press conference on Tuesday. “Will France remain France, or be brushed aside by the uncontrolled torrent of massive migration flows that will wipe out our culture, our values, our way of life.”
Le Pen said she’d consult the French about changing the constitution to “drastically” reduce immigration. She pledged to introduce a law that will prevail over international treaties and allow her to breach European Union legislation if a majority of citizens backs the idea.
“What we are offering is a ready-for-use solution,” she said.
Several presidential hopefuls on the traditional right are seeking tougher rules on who is allowed to live in the country, including Michel Barnier and Xavier Bertrand.
And though Macron ran as a centrist in 2017, he has since become more conservative and his government has also talked about the need to control immigration. On Tuesday, it said it will reduce the number of visas granted to Algerians, Moroccans and Tunisians to protest their countries’ refusal to facilitate the return of nationals in “an irregular situation” in France.
But Le Pen’s harsher tone may be more the result of the threat posed by ultra-right media personality Eric Zemmour, who has been publicly toying with a run. He has previously demanded a referendum to overhaul immigration law as well as a short-term moratorium on entries. He links immigration to terrorism.
Le Pen is placing second in surveys of voting intentions, after Macron, though polls show support for Zemmour rising and cutting into her voter base. If Zemmour joins the crowded contest, he’d likely increase the chances Le Pen would be knocked out of the second round and throw the race wide open.
During the press conference, Le Pen said she wants to make it illegal for people from different countries to live in closed communities as a way of preserving their traditions and ban undocumented people from regularizing their situation. The Schengen accord, which allows free circulation for people in Europe, would need to be renegotiated, she said.
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