Le Pen vows headscarf fines in tight French election battle

Le Pen vows headscarf fines in tight French election battle post thumbnail image

PARIS (AFP) – French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen vowed on Thursday (April 7) to issue fines to Muslims who wear headscarves in public, as candidates made a final push for votes three days ahead of an election seen as increasingly close.

President Emmanuel Macron built what seemed an unassailable lead ahead of the first round of polls on Sunday but Le Pen has eroded the margin and feels she has a real chance of winning the run-off on April 24.

With France’s traditional right- and left-wing parties facing electoral disaster, far-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon is on course to come third and he still believes he can sneak into a run-off.

Le Pen is to hold her last campaign rally on Thursday evening in the southern stronghold of Perpignan where her National Rally party has long had strong support and runs the local council.

Speaking to RTL radio, Le Pen explained how her pledge to ban the headscarf in all public spaces would be implemented, saying it would be enforced by police in the same way as seatbelt-wearing in cars.

“People will be given a fine in the same way that it is illegal to not wear your seat belt. It seems to me that the police are very much able to enforce this measure,” she said.

Le Pen has said she will use referendums to try to avoid constitutional challenges to many of her proposed laws on the basis that they are discriminatory and an infringement on personal freedoms.

Previous legislation in France banning obvious religious symbols in schools or full-face coverings in public was allowed on the basis that it applied to all citizens and in specific settings.

Le Pen, 53, has toned down her anti-immigration rhetoric during campaigning this year and has focused instead on household spending, putting her closer than ever to power, polls indicate.

The latest surveys suggest she is within striking distance of centrist Macron if the two of them come top in the first round of voting on Sunday.

A second round run-off is scheduled for April 24, with an average of polls indicating Macron has a slight lead of 54 per cent versus 46 per cent for Le Pen.

Melenchon is also rising strongly ahead of voting and is talking up his chances of springing a surprise.

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