French elections

Le Pen downplays rift with Zemmour as she begins run for French presidency

Marine Le Pen (right) and Anne Hidalgo will attempt to become the first female French president when they take on Emmanuel Macron in April's elections.
Marine Le Pen (right) and Anne Hidalgo will attempt to become the first female French president when they take on Emmanuel Macron in April's elections. AP

National Rally leader Marine Le Pen has played down chances of a rift with the influential rightwing commentator Eric Zemmour during her attempt to topple Emmanuel Macron in next April’s presidential elections.

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Zemmour is expected to announce his own bid to replace Macron within the coming weeks. Analysts predict such a move could take rightwing votes away from Le Pen who lost out to Macron in 2017.

However, during an interview on French TV station TF1, Le Pen said she had no opponents among those who believed in France. "It's a great divide between those who believe in France and those who no longer believe in it," she added.

"I think Eric Zemmour is part of those who believe in France. We have differences, but we win in unity and not in division. I will never treat him as an opponent. I think he should reserve his attacks for Emmanuel Macron.”

Launch

On Sunday in the southern city of Fréjus, Le Pen formally announced her second attempt to become France’s first female president.

"There are battles that we don't have the right to lose,” she told  nearly 1,000 of the party faithful. “The presidential election of 2022 is one of them, and because we do not have the right to lose it, we will win it.”

Le Pen, 52, last week relinquished her role as RN president in order to concentrate on her campaign. Vice-president Jordan Bardella, who has replaced her, was in the audience as she vowed to defend freedoms in France.

"I'm going to give you a state that will cherish your freedoms," she said.

Choice

"In 2022, this election will not only be a choice of society. It will be a choice of civilisation, a choice of life and future for our children, a choice of security and power for our country, a choice of freedom and independence.”

Le Pen referred to the series of protests against compulsory vaccinations and the health passes which need to be shown before entry into bars, restaurants and galleries.

"If Saturday after Saturday, thousands of people chant the word 'freedom', it is because there is a malaise that must be heard," she said.

During her speech, she also hit out at the European Union and outlined her attitudes on immigration and insecurity.

'We have to decide who goes home and under what conditions," she said to applause.

"We will eradicate the gangs and put French delinquents in prison, foreigners on the plane.”

Elsewhere, on Sunday, Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of Paris, said she would run in the presidential race.

"Knowing the seriousness of our times and to give hope to our lives, I have decided to be candidate for the French presidency," the 62-year-old said, surrounded by supporters and her campaign team in the Normandy city of Rouen.

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