Down in polls, France's Le Pen targets
immigration for boost
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[April 18, 2017]
By John Irish
PARIS (Reuters) - Far-right candidate
Marine Le Pen sought on Tuesday to turn the debate in the final week of
France's presidential election to immigration as she looked to reverse a
dip in polls.
Surveys of voting intentions have for months shown Le Pen and centrist
Emmanuel Macron qualifying on Sunday for the May 7 run-off, but the
National Front leader has been under pressure since the start of April
as conservative Francois Fillon and far-leftist Jean-Luc Melenchon close
the gap on the favorites.
Speaking to a rally in Paris on Monday she vowed to suspend all
immigration with an immediate moratorium, shield voters from
globalization and strengthen security, subjects that have won her core
backing and that she hopes can give her boost with about 30 percent of
voters still undecided.
"For several weeks, we will need to assess the situation. The reality is
that immigration is massive in our country and that migration flood that
we are experiencing is not a fantasy," Le Pen told RTL radio on Tuesday
- fleshing out details of the moratorium announcement.
The measure has not been part of her program, although she has put on
record that she wants to limit annual immigration to just 10,000 people
"I will carry out this moratorium for the exact purpose of implementing
this 10,000 figure," she said.
Until now, Le Pen has struggled to entice her opponents in the
presidential race to debate her party's trademark tough security and
immigration stance. She, by contrast, has been put on the defensive over
her position on leaving the euro zone, a proposal that lacks wide
Two polls on Tuesday showed Fillon and Melenchon still a few percentage
points away from Le Pen and Macron. She would be beaten by any of the
three others in a run-off, polls have repeatedly shown.
Le Pen's stance on immigration mainly competes with that of former prime
minister Fillon, who despite being plagued by a financial scandal is
slowly recovering in the polls, and has also targeted far-right voters.
[to top of second column]
Marine Le Pen, French National Front (FN) political party leader and
candidate for French 2017 presidential election, attends a campaign
rally in Paris, France, April 17, 2017. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol
Fillon told Europe 1 radio on Tuesday that Le Pen's moratorium idea
was nonsensical, and that while numbers should come down, the key
was to impose the country's values and identity.
"Immigration must be regulated because we have an economic, social
and housing situation that doesn't enable us to welcome as many
people who want to come here," Fillon said.
"(But) a moratorium makes no sense. What threatens us is not
immigration, but the surrender of our values and our history. If we
are proud of our history and defend it, then we will integrate
foreigners more easily."
Security - which Le Pen's links closely to immigration - was
threatening to once again become a campaign issue on Tuesday after
two men were arrested in Marseille, southern France, on suspicion of
planning an attack during the voting.
More than 230 people have died in militant Islamist attacks over the
past two years, mostly at the hands of home-grown jihadists, often
of north-African descent.
However, with no major attacks on French soil since last summer,
polls show that unemployment, stuck around 10 percent, and political
integrity - an issue that has arisen after accusations of nepotism
leveled at Fillon in particular since early this year - are bigger
issues for voters.
(Reporting by John Irish; Editing by Andrew Callus)
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