March 6, 2011
The leader of France's far-right National Front party is more popular with voters than president Nicolas Sarkozy , an opinion poll has revealed.
Marine Le Pen would gain an unprecedented first-round election victory if the French were asked to vote for a new president today. France will go to the polls to elect a new president in May next year, but the results of the survey, published in Sunday's Le Parisien newspaper and based on an opinion poll by the Harris Institute, come at a time when Sarkozy's popularity continues to plummet.
The findings have revived the spectre of 2002 when Jean-Marie Le Pen – Marine's father – knocked socialist candidate Lionel Jospin from the country's opposition out of the presidential race in the first round before losing to Jacques Chirac.
The Le Parisien poll found that 42-year-old Le Pen, who took control of the National Front in January, would obtain 23 per cent of the vote in the first round of any poll if it were held now. Sarkozy would get 21 per cent. Socialist Party leader Martine Aubry, who has not announced her intention to stand, would also get 21 per cent.
The survey does not give the level of support for Dominique Strauss-Kahn, head of the International Monetary Fund, who is expected to declare his intention to represent the socialists in the May 2012 vote and is widely believed to stand more of a chance than Aubry.
Since Le Pen, a mother of three, assumed control of the French National Front it has softened its traditional revisionist line on the Holocaust and antisemitism and appears to be targeting France's large Muslim community.
After the results of the poll were announced, Le Pen said they were "an encouragement to continue to work and present our project to the French". Speaking during a visit to the northern city of Lille, Le Pen added that French people were "waking up".
"The French want a different kind of politics, they would like to have a proper choice in the second round [of the presidential elections]: the choice between a national project and a global project as represented either by Nicolas Sarkozy, either by Dominique Strauss-Kahn or by Martine Aubry."
Le Pen said she was convinced Sarkozy – who is hoping to win over rightwing voters with a crackdown on immigration and a debate on "Islam in France" – had lost the support of the French people.
"There's a trend that makes me think that Nicolas Sarkozy is going to lose the presidential elections. I don't think he can climb back up. He represents such a disappointment and rejection by French people that I think he's already out of the second round."