Far-right leader Marine Le Pen says she’ll hold a referendum on immigration if she clinches France’s top job next year, joining several other presidential hopefuls seeking tougher rules on who is allowed to live in the country.
Le Pen told France 2 television late on Monday that she’d consult the French about changing the constitution to “drastically” reduce immigration if she defeats Emmanuel Macron in April’s election. She pledged to introduce a law that will prevail over international treaties and allow her to breach European Union legislation if a majority of citizens backs the idea.
The legal details of her proposal will be laid out in a press conference on Tuesday afternoon, she said.
Eric Zemmour, the ultra-right pundit and media personality who’s publicly toying with a run, has previously demanded a referendum to overhaul immigration law as well as a short-term moratorium on entries. He’s repeatedly linked immigration to terrorism.
The idea of holding a referendum has also found traction among candidates on the traditional right, including Michel Barnier and Xavier Bertrand, and could set the tone of the campaign in the coming months.
Macron ran as a centrist in 2017 but has since veered to the right. His government said on Tuesday it will reduce the number of visas granted to Algerians, Moroccans and Tunisians to protest their countries’ refusal to facilitate the return of nationals in “an irregular situation” in France.
If Le Pen were to win, and consult the people directly, it would be the first such major referendum since 1962 when Charles de Gaulle asked the French whether they wanted the President of the Republic to be elected by direct popular vote. Seven years later, his failed attempt to overhaul regions and the Senate in a second referendum contributed to his departure.
The EU could demand financial compensation or put political or financial pressure on Paris if its law were to begin contradicting EU legislation, which is happening in countries such as Poland and Hungary. It’s why analysts say Le Pen is so dangerous.
Le Pen is currently placing second in surveys of voting intentions, after Macron. If Zemmour joins the crowded contest to replace Macron, he’d likely divide Le Pen’s support base, increasing the chances she’d be knocked out of the second round and throwing the race wide open.
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