Leading the polls, Le Pen proposes banning the hijab

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France’s far-right leader Marine Le Pen on Friday proposed banning the Muslim headscarf in all public places, seeking to build on a recent record poll that put her nearly neck and neck with President Emmanuel Macron.

The hijab policy, which would be challenged in court and almost certainly ruled unconstitutional, saw the 53-year-old return to a familiar campaign theme 15 months from the country’s 2022 presidential election.

‘I consider the headscarf to be Islamist clothing,’ Le Pen told reporters at a news conference where she proposed a new law to ban ‘Islamist ideologies’ which she called ‘totalitarian and murderous’. .

Since taking over France’s main far-right party from her father, Le Pen has twice run for the French presidency, losing badly in 2017 to political newcomer Macron in a loss she took months to complete. to recover.

But a recent poll shows her closer than ever to her ultimate prize and has led to a flurry of fresh speculation over whether the anti-EU, anti-immigration populist could finally enter the Elysee Palace.

Despite recent setbacks by other ideologues such as Donald Trump and Matteo Salvini in Italy, a survey released earlier this week showed her at striking distance from Macron.

The online poll by Harris Interactive suggested that if a presidential run-off were held today, Le Pen would win 48% while Macron would be re-elected with 52%, Le Parisien newspaper reported.

“It’s a poll, it’s a snapshot of a moment, but what it shows is that the idea that I’m winning is credible, plausible even,” Le Pen said at the conference. Friday press.

The prospect of a close race has set off alarm bells in French politics as the twin health and economic crises caused by the coronavirus pandemic swept the country.

“It’s the highest she’s ever reached,” said Jean-Yves Camus, a French political scientist specializing in the far right, while adding that it was “too early to take the polls at the foot of the letter”.

He said Le Pen was taking advantage of frustration and anger over the pandemic, with France on the verge of a third lockdown, but also the beheading of a French teacher by an Islamist last October.

“This had a major impact on public opinion,” the expert from the Jean-Jaurès Foundation told AFP. “And in this area, Marine Le Pen has an advantage: her party is well known for its position denouncing Islamism.”

Islam in France

The beheading of Samuel Paty in a town northwest of Paris has rekindled bitter discussions in France about immigration and the threat of Islamism, while bringing the country’s strict form of secularism under international scrutiny.

The secondary school teacher was assaulted in the street by an 18-year-old extremist after showing satirical cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad to pupils during a civics lesson on freedom of expression.

In response to Paty’s death, the Macron government shut down a number of organizations deemed Islamist and drafted a law initially called “the anti-separatism bill” that cracks down on foreign funding of Islamic organizations.

If re-elected after a campaign expected to focus on jobs, the pandemic and the place of Islam in France, Macron, 43, would be the first president since Jacques Chirac in 2002 to win a second term.

Under the presidential system, the top two candidates in the first ballot advance to a second ballot where the winner must obtain more than 50%.

A victory for Le Pen “was unlikely three and a half years ago,” veteran political commentator Alain Duhamel told the BFM news channel this week.

“But today, I wouldn’t say it’s likely, but I would say, without any pleasure, that it seems possible to me.”

A repeat of the 2017 Macron-Le Pen contest, which all polls are currently showing as the most likely outcome, could increase abstention rates and disillusionment with the French political system.

Turnout in the second round in 2017 was 74.6%, its lowest level since 1969, as many left-leaning voters refused to vote.

(AFP)

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