Le Pen Has Potential Prime Minister, No Rush on Euro Exitby
Would pick Dupont-Aignan in bid to expand voter support
National Front candidate seeks to close gap with rival Macron
Marine Le Pen would name nationalist politician Nicolas Dupont-Aignan prime minister and signaled no rush for a French euro exit if she’s elected president in a bid to gain additional voter support.
“We will create a government of national unity,” Le Pen, 48, said Saturday as she appeared with Dupont-Aignan on BFM television.
Dupont-Aignan said they briefly discussed their platforms and that she trusts him and his party will remain independent as part of their newly-born alliance. Le Pen said her program, which includes raising barriers on trade and immigration, remains quite unchanged except for minor points. Leaving the euro is not a “preliminary” in her protectionist agenda and any exit process would be smooth.
The National Front candidate is fighting to build support and close a gap of about 20 percentage points with her rival, centrist Emmanuel Macron.
Dupont-Aignan’s pact with Le Pen might not be that important in terms of additional votes, said Agnes Balle, head of BVA pollster’s opinion studies. Dupont-Aignan won 1.7 million votes in the first round and half of his backers already plan to vote for Le Pen in the May 7 runoff, meaning the additional ballots Le Pen could hope for from her alliance are already accounted for, Balle said on BFM television.
Le Pen can hope to gain one to two additional percentage points “and even that is doubtful” as part of those who voted for Dupont-Aignan in the first round had initially planned to vote for Republican candidate Francois Fillon but were disappointed by him, Bruno Jeanbart, the head of pollster Opinionway, said during a phone interview.
“The question is not who is going to win the second round, but Macron’s and Le Pen’s scores” and by how much Macron is going to win, Jeanbart said.
In a poll by Odoxa released Friday, Macron’s lead narrowed by four points from the start of the week, with the centrist at 59 percent and Le Pen at 41 percent. Odoxa attributed Macron’s slip to TV images of striking workers at a Whirlpool plant in Amiens arguing with him Wednesday that contrasted with the welcome they gave to Le Pen earlier in the day. The Bloomberg Composite of second-round polls shows Macron leading by 21 points.
The alliance of Le Pen and Dupont-Aignan “seems to be a party trick destined to address Marine Le Pen’s credibility issues, as she has no team around her, and Mr. Dupont-Aignan’s financing issues. It’s no more than that and it’s not serious,” Macron said during his visit of a farm near Vienne in central France.
For the Republicans’ Secretary-General Bernard Accoyer, Dupont-Aignan showed “his true face, that of treason,” saying in a statement that the conservative politician, who got 4.7 percent of votes in the first round, lost his honor in tying up with Le Pen.
Dupont-Aignan and Le Pen unveiled a platform that seems to further push away a potential exit of France from the euro zone. According to her initial program, Le Pen saw the withdrawal as a necessary condition to improve France’s economic situation.
Le Pen, if elected president, would wait until after key votes in other European countries including Italy before reaching out again to French voters through a referendum over membership of the euro, said Marion Marechal-Le Pen, her niece and a French lawmaker for the National Front. It will take “several months, even years” for France to potentially leave the common currency, Marechal-Le Pen said on BFM television. Philippe de Villiers, a local sovereignist, and some mayors may also rally to Le Pen, Marechal-Le Pen said.
Le Pen has amended her platform to accommodate some of her potential prime minister’s program: schools would no longer be free for French children alone but also for foreign children and a transition out of the euro region could take longer.
Macron, 39, is also taking steps to persuade more voters to back his pro-European, pro-reform program for the runoff against Le Pen and is providing hints on his strategy for the June parliament elections.
Macron said in an interview with Le Figaro on Saturday that he isn’t seeking a “coalition” government with the Republicans and Socialists but representatives from both mainstream parties can decide to join him on an individual basis.