Headscarf ban haunts Le Pen’s bid for French presidency – POLITICO

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PARIS — Marine Le Pen’s proposal to ban the headscarf in public places is becoming a thorn in her side as she seeks to woo voters beyond her power base.

If elected President of France, the far-right leader wants to fine women who wear the headscarf in public places because it is “Islamist” clothing. In France, religious headgear is banned in schools and public administrations in the name of the country’s secular traditions.

With the April 24 runoff between Le Pen and French President Emmanuel Macron expected to be close, Le Pen has downplayed her proposal in recent days – while Macron has focused on it.

The ban, Le Pen said in a TV interview on Friday, is not the “most urgent element” of their campaign, but represents only a small part of their fight against “totalitarian Islamist ideology”.

Conversely, Macron hammered out the topic in several appearances this week.

“I am faced with an extreme right-wing project that wants to make France the first country in the world to ban the headscarf in public places,” he said in a radio interview on Thursday, adding that for him the veil “was not an obsession. ”

The public back-and-forth — and the resulting media scrutiny — has derailed Le Pen’s long-term quest to detoxify her party.

The leader of the National Rally has sought to steer the party into the mainstream, renaming it and toning down its anti-immigrant rhetoric. Polls show she’s had some success, and the French are no longer so afraid of the prospect of a Le Pen presidency. In next Sunday’s runoff, POLITICO’s poll predicts Macron will win 53 percent of the vote Le Pen’s 47 percent will be retained – far more than the 34 percent she scored against Macron in the 2017 election.


For more survey data from across Europe, see POLITICS poll of polls.

left to win

In the first round of voting on April 10, every left-wing candidate was eliminated, leaving both Le Pen and Macron scrambling to win over their constituents. Supporters of far-left leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who received 22 percent of the vote, appear divided on whether to support Macron or Le Pen or abstain.

But when Le Pen tried to reach this cohort, she was repeatedly questioned by journalists about her stance on the headscarf ban and how she would enforce it in a country of 5.7 million people of Muslim descent.

Press on it French broadcaster BFMTVLe Pen stood by her guns, saying it was “imperative” to ban the headscarf because it was “a uniform imposed by Islamists.”

“It’s being forced on women because those who don’t wear it are isolated, experience pressure and are sometimes insulted,” she said Friday. “And I will not tolerate that, all women in France must be able to live freely.”

But in the same interview, she also downplayed the importance of the idea, given her grand ambitions to root out “totalitarian Islamist ideology.”

Le Pen has instead attempted to focus her campaign on pensions and the cost of living, promising to cut taxes on staples and lower income taxes on young adults.

Ammunition for Macron

Macron understood this tactic and is using the headscarf ban to remind voters of the National Assembly’s past.

In the eastern city of Strasbourg on Tuesday, Macron praised a woman who wore a headscarf and asked him about feminism.

“You know what is beautiful? … It’s a meeting with a young woman who wears the veil and asks me if I’m a feminist,” he said.

“That’s the best answer to all the nonsense I hear because I have Marine Le Pen who wants to ban the headscarf,” he said.

But Macron’s latest comments stand in contrast to his earlier statements and raise questions about whether he is changing course to attract new voters – especially Muslim voters – ahead of the second round. In 2018, Macron declared the headscarf “Unset people” and that he was “not particularly happy” to see women wearing it.

according to a Poll by Ifop, 69 percent of French Muslims voted for Mélenchon in the first ballot. They will now consider their options before the second round.

But more generally, Macron is trying to thwart Le Pen’s efforts to rid the National Rally of its history, while Le Pen seeks to appeal to the left by portraying her opponent as profit-seeking and elitist.

Caught in the crossfire, many far-left voters say they plan to abstain. But as Le Pen and Macron tout the second round of elections as a battle between two opposing visions of civilizations, the pressure on them to make a choice will mount. Headscarf ban haunts Le Pen's bid for French presidency – POLITICO

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