We have had enough: France does not need a populist president. In the French election last Sunday, centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-right leader Marine Le Pen emerged as the top two candidates. Macron took 23.75 per cent of the votes to Le Pen’s 21.53 per cent. They’ll face each other in a runoff on May 7 to determine the country’s next president.
Following the victories of Donald Trump and Brexit supporters, there is still a chance that the populist camp – Le Pen’s – would come out on top in the French election.
There is a striking resemblance between Trump and Le Pen. Both rely on nationalist sentiments, such as putting their countries first and tightening border controls, to gain support from the masses. This has led to an unhealthy trend: alternative facts replacing historical facts, and discrimination against Muslims and immigrants.
Le Pen’s father, the founder of the National Front, denied the abhorrent use of gas chambers by the Nazis during the second world war. He was later kicked out of the party by his daughter. Then one of the party’s regional councillors was caught on a secret camera denying the Holocaust. Le Pen herself denied the Vel’ d’Hiv Round-up in 1942, when the French police arrested thousands of Jews who were sent to Nazi concentration camps.
Le Pen also has a history of discrimination against immigrants and Muslims. In a TV interview in 2012, she asked the interviewer: “Would you invite 12 illegal immigrants into your home? You wouldn’t. They would steal your wallet and brutalise your wife.” Such comments remind us of Trump who called Mexicans rapists and drug dealers.
What’s more, Le Pen has mocked headscarves and turbans. During the first presidential election debate, she even said that the “burkini” swimsuit was a sign of the “rise of radical Islam in our country”, and called for a blanket ban on the outfit.
Le Pen also said France should “take back control of its own borders from the European Union and deport all foreigners on a terror watch list”. This echoes Trump’s plan to build a wall along the Mexican border.
All of these points show that Le Pen is another populist candidate who has built her campaign on a wave of xenophobia and fear of terrorism. Under her, there would be more hatred towards Muslims and immigrants, especially if terrorists continue to target Europe.
If Le Pen is elected, it is likely that France would leave the European Union. Without Britain and France, Germany alone cannot hold the EU together, so it is doomed to fall apart.
France needs to stay strong in the face of terrorists attacks, but it does not need Le Pen as their leader, nor does the world need another racist and xenophobic president. So, whoever it is, not Le Pen, please!