A comeback for Marine Le Pen?
The asylum and immigration are still highly divisive in France. The parliamentary debate over a draft law on asylum and immigration not only showed the divisions inside the LREM party, but also the power Marine Le Pen still has over the public debate. The topic is at the heart of the Front National movement.
Commentators are already predict a comeback for Le Pen. As the editorialist of l'Opinion put it, Emmanuel Macron might have won the battle last year against Le Pen in the second round of the presidential elections, but he still has to win the war over the coming years to prevent her from reappearing in 2022. A recent Ifop poll for Paris Match confirms that Le Pen is still second, and would get 23% of voters intentions in a second round if she were to run against Macron again, which is even 2pp higher than her result last year. She is far ahead of Jean-Luc Mélenchon with 16.5%, while Laurent Wauquiez would only get 8% in a second round against Emmanuel Macron.
On the back of these positive poll results, Le Pen is occupying the media spotlight on a subject that is core to FN voters. During last week she multiplied her public interventions, and she even came out of parliament on Friday night to join a gathering against the government's law. Her case was also helped by protests at the French-Italian border over the weekend, held by the extreme right movement Generation Identity with banners calling to stop immigration.
So it looks like on immigration and asylum, the FN becomes once again the centre of gravity: The Republicans are divided, and Le Pen takes every occassion to point out all those FN proposals that Laurent Wauquiez took up for his party. The left decided to use immigration as the defining subject of their opposition against the government. Parties on the left, but also the LREM itself, struggled with the move of the FN to vote in tandem with the majority on one of the articles, which was about reducing the time frame to apply for asylum from 120 days to 90 days.
Officially the vote for the asylum and immigration law was planned to go through on Friday. Yet, on Sunday, after days of sometimes heated debates, there were still 200 amendments (out of a thousand) yet to be debated. The text should go through before reaching the Senate in June. The MPs might use their two weeks of holidays to take stock of what happened and how to move forward. For LREM it will be a good moment to define a common line after some 20 MPs to vote against their own government's text.
We also note that, while Le Pen makes headlines on immigration, her niece Marion Maréchal Le Pen is in the press with her new finishing school in Lyon to train the right-wing leaders of tomorrow. Marion is even more popular than Marine in the polls, despite the fact that the 28-year old is no longer in politics. People still expect her to come back some day.