Public places are now free from the headscarves of Muslims. All schoolchildren in uniforms. All laws proposed and approved by referendum. Foreigners cannot access generous social services unless they have held a job for at least five years.
This is just a small sample of Marine Le Pen’s vision for France if she wins Sunday’s presidential election against incumbent Emmanuel Macron. France and France would be first in all matters.
According to polls, Macron is the front-runner in Sunday’s vote. However, a Le Pen victory is possible. This outcome could shake France’s system, cause fear among its immigrants, muslims,jolt NATO’s dynamics, and disturb NATO allies.
Macron, 44, is a centrist and fiercely pro-EU. He has relentlessly attacked his opponent as a threat and made their election battle an ideological fight for national soul. 53-year-old Le Pen views Macron as a progressive technocrat who sees France only as a “region” within the EU.
She stated that she would reform the French Constitution and the political system in order to meet her populist agenda. This would put the EU in second place and make France more true to its core principles.
Le Pen stated, “I want to be the president that gives the people back the voices in their country.”
Critics fear that Le Pen could pose a threat to democracy. Le Pen is a nationalist who is close to Viktor Orban (Hungarian autocratic prime Minister) and other anti-immigrant far right parties in Europe. Le Pen met Vladimir Putin, the Russian President, before Macron’s 2017 French presidential election.
Although the United States considers France to be its oldest ally for many years, a Le Pen presidency could present a problem for the Biden government by undermining transatlantic unity and bolstering autocratic populists in Europe.
National Rally leader is also wary of free trade deals and would seek a more independent position for France at the United Nations and other multilateral institutions.
A column in several European newspapers on Thursday featured the support of Macron by the center-left leaders from Germany, Spain, and Portugal. It raised concerns about “populists” and “extreme right” who see Putin as an “ideological and political model, reiterating his chauvinist ideas.”
“They have echoed him attacks on minorities, diversity and his goal for nationalist uniformity,” wrote Olaf Scholz, the German Chancellor and Pedro Sanchez, the Spanish Prime Minister and Antonio Costa, respectively.
Five years ago, Le Pen met with Putin. This has haunted her campaign in Ukraine’s war against Russia.
Le Pen stated that if she was president, she would reconsider supplying Ukraine with weapons . She would also oppose energy sanctions on Moscow — both for the good of the Russian people and the French pocketbooks.
She said that she would withdraw France from NATO’s military command. This would weaken the Western military alliance’s unit front against Moscow. There should also be a “strategic approach” with Russia after the war is over. This echos the previous position of Macron who tried to reach out to Putin.
His government claims it has sent over 100 million euros ($108million) in weapons to Ukraine, since the war began, and France has been centrally involved in the West’s ever tougher sanctions against Russia.
Le Pen projected a loving image during her campaign. She said she would oversee France as the “mother of the family”.
Le Pen proposes to reduce taxes on energy bills by 20% to 5.5% to soften the impact of rising prices. Le Pen promises to return 150-200 euros ($162-$216), per month, to consumers’ pockets.
Macron, a former French banker and minister of economy, believes such measures are misdirected and economically ineligible.
Le Pen insists that her agenda addresses the “France for the forgotten” which he has neglected. As part of her plan to heal the “democratic fracture”, which she claims is responsible for the low turnout in recent French elections as well as growing social discord, she has suggested a “referendum Revolution”.
Referendums can be used to pass laws, bypassing elected legislators – if supporters gather the signatures from 500,000 eligible voters. This was the demand of the sometimes violent yellow vest movement that challenged Macron’s presidency in 2015.
Le Pen stated this month, “During my mandate I count on consulting with the only expert that Emmanuel Macron has never consulted — The people.”
But there is a problem.
To give citizens a direct voice in the lawmaking process, it would be necessary to revise the French Constitution. Another Le Pen goal would be to amend the Constitution so that French citizens have a preference for state housing and other benefits over foreigners.
Macron’s own attempt to amend the constitution failed. This complicated process requires support from both houses. Le Pen would like to avoid that by using a specific article in the constitution, just as Gen. Charles de Gaulle did back in 1962 to allow universal direct suffrage.
Four constitutional law professors stated in Le Monde that “She wants to dynamite liberalism by calling on the people.”
Le Pen would vote for other items in a controversial package that aims to end “uncontrolled immigration.” This includes treating asylum requests abroad and “systematically” exiling migrants without residency papers. It also ends automatic citizenship for foreign-born French citizens.
She would also restore uniforms in schools and strengthen police power.
Le Pen called Muslim headscarves “Islamist Uniforms” and suggested a ban on their wearing in public. In a Wednesday night debate, Macron suggested that such a ban could result in “civil war” in the country with the largest Muslim population in Western Europe.
It was an elderly woman wearing a blue-and white headscarf who confronted Le Pen last week in Pertuis, which may have put a halt to her plans.
Le Pen asked, “What does the headscarf do in politics?”
Officials from Le Pen Party moved to damage control after the backlash by the woman. They stated that banning the wearing of headscarves on the streets would be progressive, and not targeting a “grandmother 70”.
Le Pen said, however, Friday on Europe 1 radio, that “their responsibility as grandmothers is to protect their little grandchildren, and I ask them for their help.”