Will Le Pen be the new French President?
Fillon is now dealing with the allegations against his wife Penelope, or what is now being referred to as the Penelope Gate
The possibility of Marine Le Pen being elected as President of France is no longer ruled out. Although she is the first woman to run for presidency, the popularity decline of the Republican right-wing party’s candidate, Francois Fillon, can pave the way for her.
Fillon is now dealing with the allegations against his wife Penelope, or what is now being referred to as the Penelope Gate. The press slammed hard after learning that his wife who worked as his assistant in the Parliament got a high wage that amounted to 800,000 euros for her eight years of service.
The possibility of Le Pen becoming the new French President is no longer out of question for several reasons. Donald Trump’s travel ban from seven Muslims-majority countries may appeal to the voters of the far-right in France. Extremist anti-Islamic sentiment is growing and so is the frequency of terrorist attacks. Last such attacks took place at the Louvre where a young Egyptian allegedly tried to attack the guard with a knife shouting “Allah Akbar”.
The sentiment against Islam and Muslims has been growing in France since the Charlie Hebdo attack, the Bataclan attack and most recently the Nice attack. Islamophobia is no longer confined to a handful but can be witnessed among people and officials.
Francois Fillon has focused his campaign on the so-called challenge posed by Islam in France while flaunting his Christian values that would prevent him from executing reforms that would affect the poor. Now, the issue of his wife has sparked a backlash among low-income people.
Alain Juppé, who lost the candidacy of the Republican Party to Francois Fillon, is characterized by moderation, and a good knowledge of the Arab and Muslim world and the diversity of the French communities. His rivals gave him the nickname Ali Juppé to keep the voters away, as if moderation toward Islam is a sin.
The question remains whether it is possible for history to repeat itself as the world has changed and a large section has gone hostile against Islam and immigrationRanda Takieddine
This phenomenon will probably enable Marine Le Pen to win the presidency just as it happened in the case of Trump in the United States. If Fillon continues his candidacy, there is speculation that he would be the third candidate after Le Pen and Emanuel Macron, who is running as the En Marche candidate for President in May 2017.
Macron says he doesn’t belong to the left or the right wing, and that he is a liberal. He represents the youth and comes from the Rothschild & Cie Bank background. He served as minister of economy, industry and digital affairs in the second Valls government in August 2014. He later resigned following deep irreconcilable difference with Valls and nobody truly knows Macron’s position on Islam. Nevertheless, it is safe to say that he is not an extremist.
Speculating the winner of the French Presidential election is still very difficult. Le Pen is expected to visit Beirut in the next few days and meet with President Michel Aoun, officials, and some supporters of her party in the French community in Lebanon. Many candidates have visited Lebanon recently including Macaron. Fillon was also expected to visit but had to cancel because of the Penelope Gate.
Le Pen launched a campaign this weekend, promising her voters that under her leadership France will control its borders and its own currency. She aspires to break free from the Eurozone. Opinion polls have been speculating on Le Pen’s victory in the first round on April 23, but say that she will lose in the second round on the 29th against Macron, if Fillon withdrew from the race.
However, if polls are proven wrong again, Le Pen can reach the Elysee. Everything is possible after Trump’s election and people have begun to rise in their own way. The question remains whether it is possible for history to repeat itself as the world has changed and a large section has gone hostile against Islam and immigration.
This article is also available in Arabic.
Randa Takieddine is a Lebanese writer and the director of Al-Hayat newspaper office in Paris.