How dangerous is Marine Le Pen?

Kicking off her presidential campaign Marine Le Pen has spoken out in favour of leaving the EU and introducing strict limits on immigration. Polls show the candidate of the far right Front National still in the lead in the polls, with 25 percent. The escalating scandal surrounding conservative candidate François Fillon has also put wind in her sails. Le Pen's enduring popularity poses a threat to Europe's cohesion, commentators stress.

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ABC (ES) /

Is Putin meddling with French election campaign?

The Kremlin could decisively influence the French elections, ABC warns:

“After Putin's proven interference in the US election process there can be no doubt that he will do all he can to get the most favourable result for himself in France, and that is the victory of the nationalist populist Marine Le Pen, whose ties to the Kremlin are no secret. … We must wait and see how the relations between Putin and Trump develop, but from the European perspective things don't look good at all. And in this strange context there's no telling whether the opportunely timed succession of scandals - which are exposing the general decadence in French politics to the citizens - are merely a coincidence or a first offensive by Putin aimed at having a decisive impact on the May result. From a historical perspective there has hardly ever been a time when more was at stake, including the survival of the European Union.”

Le Monde (FR) /

Le Pen could bring about Europe's collapse

An election victory for the Front National candidate Le Pen would put Europe in great danger, Le Monde fears:

“That would be the third major calamity: after the Brexit and Trump's victory, the election of Marine Le Pen as French president. Such a result would cause Europe - based as it is on the reconciliation between France and Germany and the Atlantic Alliance - to implode. ... If Fillon fails because of 'Penelopegate' and his programme, which many find too harsh, the young Emmanuel Macron [leader of the movement En Marche!] would be the last one who might be able to block the victory of the far right.”

De Morgen (BE) /

Front National laughing up its sleeve

The Front National couldn't have wished for a better opponent than Fillon, De Morgen comments cynically:

“François Fillon was supposed to be the respectable candidate who would raise the sagging moral standards in French politics; the man who would put the exploiters of the system in their place. This image has now been shattered. Fillon is rightly being attacked for the wide gap between what he says and what he does. ... We needn't feel too sorry for those who set the moral bar higher for others than for themselves. ... And now the 'movement politician' Emmanuel Macron has suddenly become the main alternative to a far-right adventure for the French Republic.”

The Independent (GB) /

Le Pen more like Clinton than like Trump

Fears that Le Pen will win the French election like the populistic newcomer Trump did in the US are unfounded, the Independent reasons:

“She really isn't a fascist - just another unpleasant European right winger whose political life has been spent playing anti-immigration, anti-European and anti-Muslim tunes. But she will not become president of France and she is not Donald Trump. If anything she is France's Hilary Clinton - a competent female politician who has been around a long time but has little fresh appeal to enthuse voters beyond the party faithful. ... She is no longer the new kid on the presidential block: that title belongs to Emmanuel Macron.”

La Stampa (IT) /

A coherent manifesto of new populism

Europe would be well advised to go through Le Pen's election promises with a fine-tooth comb, La Stampa urges:

“This is the most detailed and lucid document of the new brand of populism. ... Far from being a series of slogans and demands, the '144 election promises' outline what is in itself a coherent programme. ... It's precisely for this reason that Le Pen's election promises force the democratic parties - in France, but also in Italy - to get their feet back on the ground of concrete politics. We need a form of politics that corrects the tendencies of today's global economy, which is essentially devoid of rules and only exacerbates inequalities. The Front National and its extremist allies in Europe must not be allowed to gain a monopoly over the policy of redistribution. At the European level those who oppose Le Pen must, however, admit that the Europe of officials and regulations has had its day. In no European country can the upcoming elections be won without new programmes and visions.”

The Irish Independent (IE) /

Shaking off the xenophobic image

Marine Le Pen and her party are an example of how right-wing extremism is becoming increasingly acceptable in Europe, the Irish Independent observes:

“Marine, as she likes to be called, has worked hard to cleanse her party of the virulently anti-Semitic, xenophobic image that thrived under her father's leadership. French voters are no longer ashamed to admit they support the National Front. ... So does that mean France is lurching to the far right? Are millions of Europeans - supporting the Danish People's Party, the Freedom Party of Austria, the Alternative for Germany, the Netherlands' Party for Freedom and similar movements - all white supremacist xenophobes? Hardly. Are all these parties now entirely free of racist, far-right elements? Absolutely not. But their party leadership detected yawning gaps in European politics, which they're now successfully exploiting.”

Salzburger Nachrichten (AT) /

Populists allowed to break the rules

Different rules apparently apply for Marine Le Pen than for François Fillon, Salzburger Nachhrichten observes:

“Whereas Fillion appears to have secured well-paid fake jobs for his entire family at the taxpayers' expense, Le Pen allegedly paid party staff 300,000 euros from the EU Parliament budget. Because such payments aren't allowed the Parliament wants the money back. However unlike in Fillon's case this affair doesn't seem to have done the far-right candidate any harm at all. Not even when her security people force inquisitive journalists out of the room with blows. ... Large numbers of potential protest voters expect precisely such behaviour. All they care about is that it damages the system they so detest. The supporters of centrist politicians, by contrast, expect their representatives to behave in perfect conformity with the system. Behaviour that is entirely acceptable for Madame Le Pen is far from permitted for Monsieur Fillon.”

Politiken (DK) /

Fillon affair faces Europe with a problem

Marine Le Pen will shamelessly exploit the Fillon affair to her own advantage, Politiken fears:

“The Fillon affair smouldered for years without anyone raising an eyebrow. According to estimates at least 20 percent of French MPs employ members of their family. ... The leader of the nationalist Front National, Marine Le Pen, will milk this scandal for all its worth. And the longer he clings to his political ambitions, the better it will suit her interests. As the leader of a party she inherited from her father she herself is part of an elite web of nepotism, but Europe's nationalists have never let such trivial contradictions worry them. And in the worst case voters who've simply had enough of the ruling political class won't care about them either. In this way the Fillon affair has the potential to become a European problem.”