A recent survey found far-right leader Marine Le Pen polling neck-and-neck with French President Emmanuel Macron for the first time.
Le Pen and Macron competed against each other in the 2017 presidential runoff race in which Macron soundly defeated Le Pen with 66% of the vote to her 33% support. A poll by Harris Interactive found that if the two faced a 2022 runoff today, Macron would take in 52% of the vote, and Le Pen would boast a 48% share, meaning she would be within the survey’s margin of error.
“It’s the highest she has ever been at,” Jean-Yves Camus, a French political scientist specializing in the far-right, told France 24, although he also said that it is “too early to take the polls at face value.”
The results of the survey, which was conducted online on Jan. 19 and Jan. 20, marks a gain from June of last year when Le Pen was polling 10 points behind the French president. The jump is largely attributable to mainstream conservatives shifting support toward Le Pen’s far-right party National Rally, the Times of London reported.
“Marine Le Pen has confirmed that she is capable of winning in 2022,” said her deputy Jordan Bardella, reacting to the poll on Twitter. “May all energy and goodwill come together to conquer victory.”
While Le Pen has reportedly scaled back some of her anti-immigration rhetoric and ditched calls for France to abandon the Euro, on Friday she proposed banning Muslim headscarves in all public areas. Le Pen said she considered hijabs “an Islamist item of clothing.” Even if a law like the one Le Pen proposed were to pass, it would almost certainly be deemed unconstitutional by the country’s courts, according to France 24.
Islamism and immigration have been major topics of discussion in France after the beheading of French schoolteacher Samuel Paty. Paty was decapitated in October by an 18-year-old Chechen man who was later killed by police. Prosecutors alleged that the killer was angry that Paty showed his students a cartoon of the prophet Mohammad.
Macron’s full-throated defense of the freedom to publish cartoons of Mohammad, an action that is forbidden in Islam, sparked a backlash from some Muslim countries and started a row between Macron and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who called for a boycott of French goods.
The French presidential election is set to be held in the spring of 2022. Le Pen has announced she is running, but Macron has not yet confirmed whether he will run for another term.
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