NANTERRE, France (AP) — Marine Le Pen's National Front party is betting on June legislative elections to become the leading opposition force to French President Emmanuel Macron, who defeated her in a landslide victory. But the party is dropping for now its campaign to leave the euro currency and sticking to the basics, like working against "massive immigration."
Party secretary general Nicolas Bay said on Monday the National Front would present candidates in each of France's 577 districts, hoping to show it is the "real opposition" to Macron, a centrist whose newly named prime minister, Edouard Philippe, comes from the ranks of the mainstream right.
The populist Le Pen, who has not been seen since her May 7 defeat to Macron, is to announce by week's end whether she'll run for a parliamentary seat.
She said Macron's choice of prime minister shows a "holy alliance" between left and right and continues to try to keep alive a system she wants to break.
The parliamentary candidates reflect the diversity of France, Bay said at a news conference, with half of them women, an average age of 45.7, and more than one-third drawn from the ranks of artisans, farmers, shopkeepers or heads of companies, he said.
Macron unveiled his list of parliamentary candidates last week, many taking a first leap into politics, part of his bid to put people at the center of political life. By contrast, nearly 70 percent of National Front candidates have held some kind of elected office and, Bay said, and have the proven capacity to exercise a parliamentary mandate. That wasn't always the case for the anti-immigration party which has had trouble drawing competent candidates before beginning to grow a grassroots power base.
Despite her crushing defeat to Macron, Le Pen is counting on her record high voter count — more than 10.6 million — to propel her party into parliament, as well as bidding to take in "electoral orphans" unsatisfied by Macron and feeling betrayed by the mainstream right, Bay said.
That the new prime minister was a member of the Republicans, the mainstream right, "is the demonstration that (the Republicans) cannot symbolize an opposition worthy of the name," Le Pen said in a statement.
The National Front has had only two lawmakers in the National Assembly. One of them, the party leader's niece, Marion Marechal-Le Pen, a rising star representing the party's conservative flank in the south, announced last week that she was leaving politics, at least temporarily. It was unclear how that might impact the party's usually strong showing in the southern region.