Newsweek

Does Le Pen Really Have a Shot at the Élysée Palace?

Le Pen is way down in the polls. But her base is energized, and as the French economy sputtersr and fears of Islamist militants grow, it may be too soon to discount her chances.
Marine Le Pen, French National Front candidate for the French 2017 presidential election, attends a news conference in Paris on April 21. Le Pen wants a "Frexit," but the EU's real threats are further east.
Marine Le Pen Source: Benoit Tessier/Reuters

Updated | The town of Caumont-Sur-Durance in southern France was quiet on a recent Saturday night. Shops were closed, the streets were empty, and a few elderly men sat sipping beers at the local bar, scratching at lottery cards or placing bets on the horse race on television. But inside the town hall, where a meeting for the far-right National Front party had just finished, the atmosphere was euphoric. “Marine gets me shaking,” said Monique Zaouchkevitch of the party’s charismatic leader, Marine Le Pen. A former president of the Red Cross in the nearby town of Cavaillon, Zaouchkevitch had never followed politics until she heard Le Pen speak. “The people of France have been forgotten,” she said. “But Marine, she’s close to the people.”

Nearby, Jean Truffen, an 80-year-old army veteran, was proudly showing off his collection of National Front membership cards, all featuring Le Pen’s smiling face. “I’m not ashamed. I voted for Jean-Marie. Now, I’m voting for Marine,” he said, referring to Le Pen’s father, who ran the party until 2011. “My future is behind me, but I’m voting for the future of France.”

The energy around Le Pen is palpable, particularly in France’s southeast. Some supporters are hesitant, at first, to admit they

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