PARIS (AP) — French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen said Friday that the spring election will pit nationalists and patriots such as herself against supporters of globalization, the European Union and immigration.
Speaking at an annual horse fair outside Paris — where she donned a cowboy hat and mounted a horse — Le Pen said Socialist President Francois Hollande's decision not to seek a second term won't change her campaign strategy. Hollande made the announcement late Thursday.
Le Pen, who heads the National Front, told The Associated Press at a party event later Friday that Donald Trump's victory in the U.S. presidential election shows that "the system" she has long denounced for keeping power in the hands of political elites is vulnerable.
Whether Trump's win or the British vote to leave the EU will translate into votes for her, Le Pen said she did not know. But she allowed that "perhaps" there could be a Trump effect in the French election.
"What is sure is that people are now conscious that they can liberate themselves from the diktats of the system and vote as they like," she said.
Le Pen predicted that Prime Minister Manuel Valls will run as the Socialist presidential candidate, facing her and conservative former Prime Minister Francois Fillon, who won the conservative's primary, among others.
"You know, I don't believe in this left-right fracture. On the one side are nationalists, patriots. On the other, globalizationists, Europeanists and so, by definition, immigrationists," she told reporters, making up her own descriptions.
Valls, meanwhile, praised Hollande's decision not to run and defended Hollande's economic record without saying if he plans to seek the presidency himself, as many assume he will.
"We must defend (Hollande's) actions, and I'll do it, as I'm doing it tirelessly in my duties since 2012," Valls said in a speech Friday in the eastern city of Nancy.
Valls was Hollande's interior minister from 2012 to 2014, when he became the French prime minister. He said Friday that Hollande has always put France's "general interest" and "unity" at the top of his priorities and praised "a choice that was not easy" and a man whose dignity "deserves respect."
Valls said last week he was "ready" to compete in next month's Socialist primary. Other presidential contenders have already announced their intentions to run in the primary, including former economy minister Arnaud Montebourg.
In his televised address on Thursday night, Hollande avoided saying if he would support Valls — or any other candidate.