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PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION 2017

LE PEN

French PM admits Marine Le Pen could become president

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said on Thursday that far-right leader Marine Le Pen had a chance of winning next year's presidential election, boosted by the momentum of Donald Trump's shock win in the United States.

French PM admits Marine Le Pen could become president

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said on Thursday that far-right leader Marine Le Pen had a chance of winning next year's presidential election, boosted by the momentum of Donald Trump's shock win in the United States.

“It's possible,” Valls said in response to a question at an economic conference in Berlin on whether the candidate of France's anti-immigration National Front could win in light of the US upset.

Le Pen is widely tipped to reach the second round of the election on May 7, where she would face either a candidate of the mainstream right or the left.

But polls suggest she would be easily beaten in the second round, although political commentators say her best chance would be if she faced Nicolas Sarkozy in the run off.

“This means that the balance of politics will change completely,” Valls said, warning of “the danger presented by the extreme right”.

There is growing concern in France that the same wave of populist, anti-globalisation anger that carried Trump to the White House could hand Le Pen the keys to the Elysee Palace.

“Of course there are risks in France, I am struck by the tone of the public debate,” Valls said.

But he stressed that there were differences between Trump and Le Pen, noting that the American billionaire was the candidate of a mainstream party even though his “speeches and proposals are worrying”.

To respond to the “anger” that led to the British decision to quit the EU and Trump's election win, Valls pleaded for a new approach to globalisation.

“I am for a globalisation that serves the people,” he said.

 

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LE PEN

France’s far-right patriarch refused questioning in EU fraud case

Jean-Marie Le Pen, founder of France's far-right National Front party, refused to submit to police questioning last month as part of an EU funding inquiry, claiming immunity as a European Parliament lawmaker, his adviser said Sunday.

France's far-right patriarch refused questioning in EU fraud case
Photos:AFP

Le Pen is one of several party MEPs suspected of using European Parliament funds provided for assistants to pay more than 20 France-based party staff.

If convicted, the party could be ordered to repay €7 million ($8.2 million), and the judges pre-emptively seized the subsidies.

An EU tribunal has already determined that Le Pen must reimburse €320,000.

But when police from France's anti-corruption squad tried to question him last month at his office just outside Paris, he claimed MEP immunity and ordered them to leave.

“He was prepared to receive them, but they had such arrogant attitudes which Jean-Marie Le Pen refused to accept,” his adviser Lorrain de Saint Affrique told AFP, confirming a report in the Journal du Dimanche newspaper.

Le Pen, 90, sits as an independent after being thrown out of his party by his daughter Marine Le Pen in 2015 for saying the Nazi gas chambers were a mere “detail” of history.

He has also often made disparaging statements against Muslims and Roma which have earned him a string of hate speech convictions.

His daughter has renamed the party the National Rally in an effort to shed its xenophobic and anti-Semitic image.

The EU funding inquiry has led French judges to withhold €2 million of public subsidies for the party, a move which Marine Le Pen has denounced as a “death sentence”.

Without the funds, she warns the party will be bankrupt by September.

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