Marine Le Pen Will Name a Former Rival Prime Minister if Elected
PARIS — Marine Le Pen, the far-right French presidential candidate, said on Saturday that she would name a former rival and fellow Euroskeptic as her prime minister if elected, in a new effort to broaden her appeal and defeat her centrist opponent, Emmanuel Macron, in the second round of the country’s elections on May 7.
Ms. Le Pen said she had reached an agreement with Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, a right-wing politician who shares her distrust of the European Union and globalization and who gathered 4.7 percent of the vote, or nearly 1.7 million ballots, in the election’s first round. Ms. Le Pen gathered 21.3 percent.
Ms. Le Pen, sitting with Mr. Dupont-Aignan at a news conference in Paris, praised him as a “patriot” and said that together they would present a “common project” to help them “claim the patriotic and republican victory that our country needs.”
“We must wrest our country from finance, from submission, from the great whirlwind of globalization that will carry us away if we confront it without knowing how to protect ourselves,” she said.
Mr. Dupont-Aignan’s endorsement was first announced on Friday, amid the political fallout of the resignation of the interim leader of the National Front, Ms. Le Pen’s party, because of comments he made in 2000 praising a Holocaust denier and expressing doubt that the Nazis used poison gas to murder Jews.
Mr. Dupont-Aignan, who heads a right-wing party called Debout La France, or “Stand Up, France,” does not bring with him a substantial number of voters, and most of his supporters were already expected to choose Ms. Le Pen in the second round. But it is the first time the National Front has entered into a formal alliance with another political party with the hope of forming a joint government, representing an additional step in Ms. Le Pen’s bid to “un-demonize” the party.
Mr. Dupont-Aignan has drawn heavy criticism for his endorsement, especially among politicians on the right who noted his past declarations that his “Gaullist” convictions — meaning his attachment to the political heritage of late president Charles de Gaulle — were incompatible with an alliance with the National Front.
“Nicolas Dupont-Aignan is showing his true face, that of betrayal,” the center-right Republican party said in a statement. The Republican candidate, François Fillon, did not make it into the second round of the elections, and the party has called on its members to vote against Ms. Le Pen.
Ms. Le Pen said the agreement with Mr. Dupont-Aignan had led to “modifications” in her platform. Mr. Dupont-Aignan mentioned, for instance, a “less systematic” use of import taxes. And in a joint statement on Saturday, the two said that leaving the eurozone was not a “prerequisite to all economic policy,” a softening of Ms. Le Pen’s previous position.
Still, the two politicians agree on a vast number of policies, including a hard-line approach to security and an emphasis on the need to increase economic protectionism and to reduce the powers of the European Union, which has become one of the campaign’s major issues. France’s current president, François Hollande, noted on Saturday that the French election was a “European choice.”
“The choice that is being presented on Sunday, May 7 is to know if the French — not only globally, but individually — have to fear an exit from the European Union,” Mr. Hollande said. “They have everything to gain from remaining in the European Union.”
Mr. Macron, Ms. Le Pen’s centrist opponent, said on Saturday that her alliance with Mr. Dupont-Aignan was the sign of a “real clarification in French political life.”
“There is a reactionary, nationalist and anti-European right that has structured itself and that is now an important political force in the second round of this presidential elections,” Mr. Macron said at a campaign event in Usseau, a small town in central France.
Mr. Macron, a former investment banker who favors free trade and wants France to remain firmly in the European Union, has a comfortable lead in opinion polls ahead of the runoff.
Even if Ms. Le Pen were elected and Mr. Dupont-Aignan were nominated to become prime minister, it is unclear that he would stay in the job for long. Although the president nominates the prime minister, that person must reflect the political majority in the National Assembly, France’s lower house of Parliament, to avoid a government-toppling motion of censure.
But few analysts believe the National Front will gain enough seats in legislative elections in June to obtain a majority, meaning Ms. Le Pen, if elected, could be forced to replace Mr. Dupont-Aignan after those elections.