Le Pen promises to make France 'free'

  • 05/02/2017
French far-right leader Marine Le Pen
Marine Le Pen arrives at a rally to launch the presidential campaign in France (Reuters)

French far-right leader Marine Le Pen has kicked off her presidential campaign with a promise to shield voters from globalisation and make their country "free", hoping to profit from political turmoil to score a Donald Trump-style upset.

Opinion polls see the 48-year-old daughter of National Front (FN) founder Jean-Marie Le Pen topping the first round on April 23 but then losing the May 7 run-off to a mainstream candidate.

But in the most unpredictable election race France has known in decades, the FN hopes the scandal hitting conservative candidate Francois Fillon and the rise of populism across the West will help convince voters to back Ms Le Pen.

"We were told Donald Trump would never win in the United States against the media, against the establishment, but he won... We were told Marine Le Pen would not win the presidential election, but on May 7 she will win!" Jean-Lin Lacapelle, a top FN official, told several hundred party officials and members.

In 144 "commitments" published at the start of a two-day rally in Lyon, Le Pen proposes leaving the euro zone, holding a referendum on EU membership, slapping taxes on imports and on the job contracts of foreigners, lowering the retirement age and increasing several welfare benefits while lowering income tax.

"The aim of this programme is first of all to give France its freedom back and give the people a voice," Ms Le Pen said in the introduction to the manifesto.

Emmanuel Macron, a pro-European centrist candidate who polls say is likely to face Ms Le Pen in the presidential election run-off, will also hold a rally in Lyon on Saturday to propose a radically different platform.

Opinion polls suggest Mr Macron would easily beat MS Le Pen in the second round, but faith in pollsters has been shaken after they failed to predict Mr Trump's election win or Britain's vote last June to leave the European Union.