PARIS (AP) — The head of France's far-right National Front made a final push for votes on Thursday, three days ahead of crucial elections, promising pragmatism over ideology in any regions won by her anti-immigration party and assuring there would be no witch hunts.
At a final rally, Le Pen underscored the national character of the regional vote, telling cheering supporters that a new France is within their grasp — and inside the ballot box. The lead candidates in all 13 French regions contesting the presidency of leadership councils shared the stage with Le Pen.
The anti-immigration National Front led in six regions in the Dec. 6 first round, and Le Pen herself led by a wide margin in the north where she is running. But a poll by TNS-Sofres-One Point published Wednesday suggested that both Le Pen and her niece, Marion Marechal-Le Pen, who is running in the south, would lose in the final round. Such an outcome would be a major setback for the National Front — and for Marine Le Pen's planned bid for the presidency in 2017.
The two Le Pens scored so well in round one that the governing Socialists, straggling in third place, ordered their candidates to withdraw so their voters could cast ballots for the rival conservative mainstream to block the far right.
Le Pen softened her usually trenchant stance in a reach-out to left and right, saying her party represents a new way where "patriots" respect the interests of the regions and clans and "political fraud" have no place.
"There will be no political witch hunts in the regions. They key word won't be ideology but pragmatism," she said in a clear bid to lure voters fearful of an agenda by a party accused by the mainstream of dividing the French.
But she also said that National Front regions would "open each file" when deciding on subsidies for associations and other interests and "stop, reform or continue."
She and her niece have said in the past that they would refuse funding to interests representing a single community, a reference to Muslim groups. Both regions have large Muslim populations.
Earlier Thursday, Le Pen vowed, if elected to head the north, to bring suit against the French state over the situation in Calais, where thousands of migrants are camped in hopes of reaching Britain.
She claimed on BFM television that the port city had deteriorated to the point where the mayor was issuing passes to residents to get home — a claim the mayor quickly denied.
The poll of voter intentions suggested Marine Le Pen would get 47 percent and her conservative adversary Xavier Bertrand, a former labor minister, 53 percent. Marechal-Le Pen, running in the Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur region, would take 46 percent of the vote, according to the poll, while her conservative rival Christian Estrosi would get 54 percent. The online poll took place two days after last Sunday's first round.