Far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen ‘could be president’, a former French prime minister has warned, especially as the more extreme candidate Eric Zemmour makes her seem ‘moderate’.
In a scathing open letter, former Prime Minister Manuel Valls said it is “one minute to midnight” when it comes to the possibility of the country electing controversial, far-right candidate Ms Le Pen.
He said: “In 2014, when I was prime minister, I warned about the extreme right getting closer to the doors of power.”
Mr Valls said that Ms Le Pen has managed to make herself appear “more moderate” in comparison with her competitor, the extreme far-right candidate, Mr Zemmour.
He said: “My warnings have unfortunately become reality.
“Marine Le Pen won her match with Éric Zemmour. She has used him to make her rhetoric more acceptable. She has come out of it more moderate and reasonable [compared to Zemmour], who has nonetheless succeeded in spreading his poison in society.
“Because of the cowardice of some and the naivety of many, she has been definitively de-demonised.”
Mr Valls said that the possibility of Ms Le Pen succeeding to the second round of the election is “a real risk”, and that many factors have made her appear a more credible candidate to some now, than in 2017.
He said: “The [favourable] comparison with Zemmour, the carrying over of a lot of [left-wing candidate] Jean-Luc Mélenchon's votes because populism is more sensitive to demagogy than to the right-left border or to the risks of the far right, and cowardice of a part of the political class, notably on the right”
In response, Mr Valls called for “fighting”. He said: “It is a question of…not resigning ourselves, and not giving in.”
Le Pen has ‘no vision for France’
The former PM was equally dismissive of Ms Le Pen’s plans for France.
He said: “Marine Le Pen has no vision for France. She embodies only populism…[and] is lost in her contradictions, her reversals and her false arguments.
“Her political models – Trump, Orbán and Putin – shed light on the authoritarian mode of government that she would bring about. On the international scale, the risks of leaving NATO, or forming an alliance with Russia, are illuminated by current events.
“Although she may have removed leaving the EU from her programme, her desire to assert national law over European law in all matters would in fact provoke it.
“Her economic programme, her tens of billions of euros of reckless spending to which there are very few credible savings, illustrate the persistence of her incompetence, and would lead France to ruin and the French to decline.”
He added: “She seeks to divide, stigmatise, and make foreigners look like enemies.”
Mr Valls said that France was “dancing on a volcano”, and did not “understand what is at stake”.
Macron is ‘only one who can confront these crises’
He said that the only option in the election was Emmanuel Macron, as he is “up to speed on the essential issues of Europe, nuclear power, economic competitiveness, and Republican unity”.
“He is the only one who can confront these crises,” Mr Valls said.
“A presidential election is the choice of a country’s destiny,” he said. “People of all stripes must now stand together behind [Macron].
“It will be up to them to stand together within a broad national union to meet the challenges of our time, to improve the lives of people in France, and respond to their troubles.”
It comes as Ms Le Pen last week said that “Putin could become an ally to France again” if the “war stops in Ukraine”, and added: “It depends on the situation. I have always said that a great power can be an ally in a number of situations, and also an adversary or competitor [in others].”
Recent political polls suggest that Marine Le Pen is gaining ground. A recent Ifop poll put her at 47% of the vote compared to Mr Macron’s 53%, in a result that shocked the current political establishment.