Le Pen Takes Heat for Father; Macron Courts Rural Votes
French presidential hopeful Emmanuel Macron’s party on Saturday called for the resignation of Marine Le Pen’s father from the National Front after comments he made about a ceremony for the policeman killed in an attack in Paris.
The policeman was shot dead and two others were wounded April 20, three days before the first round of the presidential election that saw Macron and Le Pen go through to the May 7 second round. The Islamic State militant group claimed the attack.
Jean-Marie Le Pen, the National Front (FN) party’s founder from whom his daughter has sought to distance herself because of his controversial views, criticized a speech made at the remembrance service by the policeman’s partner.
“The long speech he made in some way institutionalized homosexual marriage, exalted it in a public way, and that shocked me,” Le Pen senior, 88, said in an interview on his website.
“Marine Le Pen has still not firmly condemned these comments,” a statement released by Macron’s En Marche! (On the Move!) movement said Saturday.
“I am asking the candidate to put an end immediately to the duties Jean-Marie Le Pen still carries at the FN,” Benjamin Grivaux, Macron’s spokesman, was quoted as saying in the statement.
Jean-Marie Le Pen was expelled from the party’s management in 2015 after he said World War II Nazi gas chambers were a “detail” of history, but he remains an honorary president of the National Front.
Conservative to back Le Pen
Le Pen did receive some welcome news Saturday: Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, a conservative who was eliminated in the first round of voting, has decided to back her campaign.
Florian Philippot, a FN vice president, told BFM television Saturday that the new alliance is “excellent news” and “a turning point in this campaign.”
Dupont-Aignan got nearly 1.7 million votes in the April 23 first-round ballot, 4.7 percent of the total. But his switch to Le Pen split his party, “Stand up France,” prompting the departure of a vice president, Dominique Jamet.
Macron courts rural votes
Macron is hunting for votes in rural areas of France where Le Pen has made inroads among people who feel left behind, with difficult access to public services, mobile phone connections and other modern conveniences.
In a radio interview Saturday, the centrist Macron said that if elected, his government would intervene directly if mobile operators fail within 18 months to install high-speed fiber optic and phone networks everywhere.
Later, at the farmers market in the central town of Poitiers, Macron defending the European Union and free trade with farmers complaining of low-price competition and the difficulty of getting loans to upgrade farming technology.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.