Le Pen Could Conceivably Win French Presidency, Politicians and Experts Say

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PARIS – With the polls narrowing and one of her main rivals embroiled in an expenses scandal, far-right leader Marine Le Pen could feasibly become French president in May, senior politicians and commentators say.

“I think Madame Le Pen could be elected.”

— Jean-Pierre Raffarin

At the headquarters of her National Front (FN) party in Nanterre, outside Paris, officials believe the same forces that led to last year’s Brexit vote in Britain and Donald Trump’s victory in November’s U.S. election could carry Le Pen to power.

Even some of her rivals concede a victory for the far-right firebrand is possible.

“I think Madame Le Pen could be elected,” former conservative Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin said this month.

Another former premier, the Socialist Manuel Valls, has also warned of the “danger” of assuming that Le Pen cannot win.

Polls show that support for the anti-immigrant and anti-EU candidate has been consistent for four years now.

Since 2013, surveys have shown the blond 48-year-old will progress through the first round to reach the runoff stage in France’s two-stage presidential election.

Pollsters now note that although Le Pen is not currently forecast to win the all-important showdown on May 7, she has whittled down the projected gap between herself and her main challengers.

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The legal woes of her conservative challenger Francois Fillon have especially played into Le Pen’s hands.

When Fillon saw off pre-contest favorite Alain Juppe to clinch the right-wing nomination in late November, polls showed he would win 67 percent of the vote in the runoff to 33 percent for Le Pen.

Then in January allegations surfaced that Fillon had paid his wife hundreds of thousands of euros for parliamentary work she might not have done. Surveys now show Le Pen would score 44 percent to 56 percent for Fillon if the second round were held today.

[Read the full story here, at The Japan Times]

The pressure on 62-year-old Fillon moved up a notch Friday when prosecutors announced he will face a full judicial investigation into the claims.

A similar picture emerges when Le Pen’s projected second-round score is compared to that of Emmanuel Macron, the pro-business centrist who has moved from outsider to genuine contender in the space of a few months.

Although Macron’s performance against Le Pen has only been tested since January, the winning margin has dropped from 30 points to around 20 in a month.

The latest Ifop poll gives Macron 61.5 percent to 38.5 for the far-right standard bearer. Read the rest of this entry »


Nationalists Overtake Merkel’s Doomed, Spectacularly Unpopular Pro-Immigration Party in a German State Legislature Vote

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Merkel’s refugee policies were a prominent issue in the campaign for Sunday’s election, which came a year to the day after she decided to let in migrants from Hungary — setting off the peak of last year’s influx. Germany registered more than 1 million people as asylum seekers last year.

A nationalist, anti-immigration party performed strongly in a German state election Sunday in the region where Chancellor Angela Merkel has her political base, overtaking her conservative party to take second place amid discontent with the leader’s migrant policies, projections indicated Sunday.

The three-year-old Alternative for Germany, or AfD, won about 21% of votes in the election for the state legislature in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, according to projections for ARD and ZDF television based on exit polls and partial counting. They put support for Merkel’s Christian Democrats at between 19% and 20%, which would be their worst result yet in the state.

The center-left Social Democrats, who lead the outgoing state government, were expected to be the strongest party with about 30% support.

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Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, an economically weak region in Germany’s northeastern corner, is home to 1.6 million of the country’s 80 million people and is a relative political lightweight. It is, however, the state where Merkel has her parliamentary constituency, and Sunday’s vote was the first of five regional votes before a national election just over a year away.

National AfD leader Frauke Petry celebrated “a blow to Angela Merkel.” Local AfD leader Leif-Erik Holm told supporters: “Perhaps this is the beginning of the end of Angela Merkel’s chancellorship today.”

[Read the full AP story here, at the LA Times]

Merkel’s refugee policies were a prominent issue in the campaign for Sunday’s election, which came a year to the day after she decided to let in migrants from Hungary — setting off the peak of last year’s influx. Germany registered more than 1 million people as asylum seekers last year.

New arrivals in Germany have slowed drastically this year, and Mecklenburg is home to relatively few foreigners. Still, New Year’s Eve robberies and sexual assaults blamed largely on foreigners, as well as two attacks in July carried out by asylum seekers and claimed by Islamic State, have fed tensions.

Merkel has stuck to her insistence that “we will manage” the refugee crisis and has also said that “sometimes you have to endure such controversies.” Read the rest of this entry »