Top Macron ally admits Le Pen could triumph next year

The French finance minister and top Macron ally Bruno Le Maire has admitted that Marine Le Pen could win the French presidency next year as he warns opponents to take her seriously and present a credible case against her leadership.

He said that the country is “crossed by movements of anger, of doubt which are very deep” but hoped “that in this fight against Marine Le Pen, our ideas will prevail,” in comments backing Macron for re-election.

His comments come in the wake of a number of opinion polls that show Le Pen leading the pack in the first round and biting close at the heels of struggling Macron in the decisive second ballot. A shock poll last month showed that she’s just two points away from leading the country, with a year left to play and the European coronavirus crisis only getting worse.

France is set to go to the polls next April, with a second round run-off between the top two candidates penciled in for two weeks after the first round. Macron and Le Pen met last time, with Macron winning two thirds of the vote. Polling now suggests that they will meet again, with the results set to be a lot closer.

Le Maire was once a leading light in the centre-right Republican party, and ran for the party’s candidacy ahead of the 2017 presidential election. He came in at an embarrassing fifth place behind heavyweights like former President Nicolas Sarkozy and primary victor François Fillon.

He was subsequently appointed finance minister by Macron and expelled from the Republicans for his participation in the Europhile’s government, leading to his membership of Macron’s En Marche! grouping.

This isn’t the first time that key Macron allies have warned about the nationalist threat. Last month it emerged that the President has dropped his 2017 vow to shake up France’s electoral system precisely because of Le Pen’s growing popularity.

Top En Marche! politician Christophe Castaner went so far as to admit the plans had been scrapped because “I am not in favour of bringing 100 RN MPs into Parliament.”

And last week, in another sign that Macron’s camp is desperate to fight off Le Pen’s insurgent threat, the French interior minister Gérald Darmanin hit out at her in a televised discussion by accusing her of being too soft on Islam.