Europe

Le Pen tells rally she would shield France from ‘savage globalization’

Marine Le Pen, French National Front (FN) political party leader and candidate for French 2017 presidential election, attends a campaign rally in Paris

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

By Ingrid Melander and Philippe Wojazer

PARIS (Reuters) – French far-right leader Marine Le Pen urged supporters six days ahead of the presidential election to rally behind her, saying the country’s most unpredictable vote in decades was a choice between her rivals’ “savage globalization” and her patriotism.

Opinion polls have for months shown Le Pen and centrist Emmanuel Macron qualifying this Sunday for the May 7 run-off, but the gap with conservative Francois Fillon and far-leftist Jean-Luc Melenchon has been tightening.

“The choice on Sunday is simple: It is a choice between a France that is rising again and a France that is sinking,” Le Pen said. Slamming her rivals, whom she said wanted “savage globalization,” she said hers was the camp of the patriots.

“Give us France back, for God’s sake,” she said, prompting from the crowd of about 5,000 the National Front’s (FN) traditional “This is our home!” chant.

While no polls have shown Le Pen missing out on the run-off, they are now within the margin of error and any two of the four top candidates have a shot at qualifying. Polls have consistently shown her losing that second round.

Getting the crowd to boo the European Union, Le Pen hit her party’s trademark anti-EU, anti-immigration themes hard.

“I will protect you. My first measure as president will be to reinstate France’s borders,” she said to wide applause and cheers.

“Mass immigration is not an opportunity for France, it’s a tragedy for France,” she said, adding that she would immediately impose a moratorium on immigration.

“We can’t decide who is allowed to come here any more,” Le Pen said, adding: “The French sometimes have fewer rights than foreigners – even illegal ones.”

Scuffles briefly broke out between 60 to 80 anti-FN protesters and police near the Zenith concert hall in north-east Paris ahead of the rally, a Reuters photographer said.

Police fired teargas at the protesters, some of whom threw chunks of wood. The protesters then left, followed by a small group of police.

During Le Pen’s speech, a young woman jumped on the stage and was immediately carried away by security.

FN lawmaker Gilbert Collard told reporters that on arriving at the concert hall he was hit in the neck by a beer bottle and that other objects were aimed at him before police intervened. Another FN official, Jean Messiha, said he saw a couple of Molotov cocktails being thrown. Reuters could not verify either comment.

Macron spoke to a crowd nearly four times bigger in another concert hall on the other side of Paris a few hours earlier, striking a very different, pro-European tone.

“Macron is a pure marketing product,” said 26 year-old Veronique Fornilli, an FN youth activist in the Paris region. “Only Le Pen can put France back in order,” she said.

(Additional reporting by Philippe Wojazer and Simon Carraud; Editing by Leigh Thomas and Hugh Lawson)

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