Le Pen takes lead over far-right rival amid soaring energy prices – POLITICO

PARIS – Marine Le Pen’s initial campaign to protect consumers and cut fuel prices seems to be making waves as the war in Ukraine leaves voters in France worried about money.

It also forced Eric Zemmour, who challenged her to the far right, to play catch-up with the economy and propose a series of measures over the past few days to help protect French consumers.

The French are facing a spike in energy prices, with Fuel costs average over €2 per liter and inflation is at highest since 2008. There are fears that worse will happen as the war drags on and the EU imposes tougher sanctions on Russia.

While President Emmanuel Macron has cemented his progress against other candidates in the race ahead of April’s presidential election, the battle is fierce for second place in the polls. promissory note. And Le Pen seems to be gaining the edge.

According to the POLITICO Poll, Le Pen will win 17 percent of the vote versus 12 percent each for Zemmour and for conservative candidate Valérie Pécresse. Macron, who has worked hard to convince Russian President Vladimir Putin to stop the war, took the lead with 30% of the vote.

Zemmour upended voting predictions late last year when he unexpectedly entered the presidential race and temporarily overcame Le Pen. While both candidates campaigned on far-right topics like immigration and security, Le Pen’s National Election also attempted to appeal to the working classes with compelling proposals about welfare and purchasing power.

Money in your pocket

Over the past few days, Le Pen and Zemmour have struggled to convince voters that they are the best people to defend the interests of ordinary Frenchmen.

Zemmour, in particular, has shown some signs of despair, after Le Pen’s famous niece Marion Maréchal failed to boost his ratings. On Sunday, he was caught pretending to strike up a conversation about fuel prices with fellow drivers at a gas station near the city of Montauban, southwestern France. It later emerged that the meetings were staged, and that other drivers were supporters.

This month, the former journalist, who has adopted a pro-business economy approach, also promised that he would cap fuel prices at €1.80 per liter and increase nurses’ salaries by 10%. if he is elected president.

“We are paying attention to the things that really interest the French, the things in real life, like their purchasing power, the trips in the car,” said a Zemmour aide. said.

“We always talk about [buying power] and luckily for us, it’s not the people who promise more, whether it’s pensions or minimum wages, that are the most convincing,” he said. mentions Le Pen and far-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon. Their main trick, he added, is to cut business taxes to increase wages.

Meanwhile, in a political show with other presidential candidates on Tuesday, Le Pen appeared tenacious and confident and reminded voters that she had been campaigning for fuel tax cuts since September.

The far-right leader struggled when her past pro-Russian statements came under scrutiny when Putin launched his invasion of Ukraine last month. But she seems to have regained her footing by defying EU sanctions on Russia – not in principle, but because of their impact on the French economy.

“My obsession is to protect the French people,” she told the studio audience on French TV channel TF1. “I don’t want them to lose their jobs … not be able to heat their homes, eat or use their cars,” she said, referring to rising fuel prices and possible cuts in exports. fertilizer exports from Russia.

Le Pen has campaigned to cut VAT on fuel, gas and electricity from 20% to 5.5%, cut French TV license fees and reduce taxes for employers who pay salaries for their employees. Those in the National Rally party say they feel vindicated by trends in the economy and will continue to campaign in the same way.

Jean-Philippe Tanguy, campaign manager for Le Pen, said: “It is always rewarding to know that we have seen a trend emerging, rather than missing it. “Marine Le Pen has been campaigning on cost of living issues for a long time, while those who left to join Zemmour dismiss them because they are not interested… Now he is improvising solutions on purchasing ability.”

But there’s no sign of Zemmour giving up, despite his poll ratings.

His campaign team hopes that National Rally disgruntled voters will stay away from the polls and their champion will overtake Le Pen in the final weeks of the campaign. Zemmour Reconquest’s Party! and its allies are expanding the fight, with 100 political rallies planned until the election.

Juliette Droz contributed reporting.

This post has been updated with comments from Jean-Philippe Tanguy, Marine Le Pen’s campaign director. Le Pen takes lead over far-right rival amid soaring energy prices - POLITICO

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