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Headscarf ban hinders Le Pen’s candidacy for French presidency – POLITICO

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PARIS — Marine Le Pen’s proposal to ban headscarves in public places is becoming a thorn in her campaign as she tries to woo voters beyond her power base.

If elected president of France, the far-right leader wants to fine women wearing the headscarf in public places on the grounds that it is “Islamist” attire. In France, religious head coverings are banned in schools and in public administrations in the name of the country’s secular traditions.

While the April 24 runoff between Le Pen and French President Emmanuel Macron is expected to be close, Le Pen has played down his proposal in recent days – while Macron has shown interest in it.

The ban, Le Pen said in a television interview on Friday, is not the “most urgent element” of his campaign, representing only a small part of his drive to fight “totalitarian Islamist ideology”.

Conversely, Macron hammered home the issue several times this week.

“There is in front of me a far-right project that wants to make France the first country in the world to ban the headscarf in public places,” he said in a radio interview on Thursday, adding that for the veil “was not an obsession”. ”

The public back and forth — and the resulting media scrutiny — upended Le Pen’s long-term drive to detoxify his party.

The leader of the National Rally has tried to pivot the party towards the mainstream, renaming it and toning down its anti-immigrant rhetoric. The polls show that it has had some success and the French are no longer as frightened as before by the prospect of a Le Pen presidency. In next Sunday’s runoff, POLITICO’s poll predicts Macron will get 53% of the vote to Le Pen’s 47% – far more than the 34% she got in the 2017 election against Macron.


For more survey data from across Europe, visit POLITICS Survey of surveys.

left to win

In the first round of voting on April 10, all leftist candidates were eliminated, leaving Le Pen and Macron scrambling to attract their voters. Supporters of far-left leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who won 22% of the vote, appear split on whether to support Macron, Le Pen or abstain.

But as Le Pen tried to reach out to this cohort, she was repeatedly asked by reporters about her stance on the headscarf ban and how she would enforce it in a country that has 5.7 million inhabitants of Muslim origin.

Pressed on the subject on the French channel BFMTV, Le Pen remained on its positions and declared that it was “essential” to ban the headscarf because it was “a uniform imposed by the Islamists”.

“It was forced on women because those who don’t wear it are isolated, pressured and sometimes insulted,” she said on Friday. “And I will not tolerate it, all women in France must be able to live freely.”

But it was in that same interview that she also downplayed the importance of the idea, given her high ambitions to eradicate “totalitarian Islamist ideology”.

Le Pen has instead tried to focus his campaign on pensions and cost-of-living issues, promising to cut taxes on essential foodstuffs and lower income tax for young adults.

Ammo for Macron

Macron has seized on this tactic and seized on the headscarf ban to remind voters of the past of the National Rally.

In the eastern city of Strasbourg on Tuesday, Macron praised a woman who wore a headscarf and asked him about feminism.

“Do you know what is beautiful? … It’s meeting a young woman who wears the veil and asks me if I’m a feminist,” he said.

“It’s the best answer to all the bullshit I hear, because in front of me, there is Marine Le Pen who wants to ban the headscarf,” he said.

But Macron’s recent comments contrast with his past statements, raising questions about whether he is changing course to attract new voters – especially Muslim voters – ahead of the second round. In 2018, Macron said the headscarf “made people uncomfortable” and that he was “not particularly happy” to see women wearing them.

According to an Ifop poll, 69% of French Muslims voted for Mélenchon in the first round. They will now weigh their options before the second round.

But more generally, Macron is trying to kill Le Pen’s efforts to strip the National Rally of its history, while Le Pen tries to please the left by portraying his opponent as elitist and profit-driven.

Caught in the crossfire, many far-left voters say they want to abstain. But as Le Pen and Macron portray the second round as a fight between two opposing visions of civilizations, the pressure will mount on them to make a choice.

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