Le Pen celebrates her first round win with burgers and pizza

Published April 24th, 2017 - 07:00 GMT
The audience sport red and blue National Front buttons and blue roses. The venue is a sea of French flags.(AFP)
The audience sport red and blue National Front buttons and blue roses. The venue is a sea of French flags.(AFP)


The National Front candidate made a point of being seen with ordinary people at pizza parlours and burger joints in provincial northern France after the first round of the French election Sunday. She did not actually make much time to meet supporters, however.

French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen left Paris to celebrate her success in the first round of the presidential election with ordinary people in northern France Sunday.

She chose a sports centre in an industrial park in the town of Henin-Beaumont, in what was no doubt a calculated move to contrast with France's political elite, who Le Pen considers her enemies, and who presumably spent the night partying in Paris 

Le Pen, who currently heads the right-wing National Front, was elected regional councillor in Henin-Beaumont in 2008. Her FN colleague Steeve Briois gained 50 per cent of the vote here in 2014's municipal elections and is mayor of the town of 27,000.

Le Pen's being in Henin-Beaumont and not in Paris was "a symbol," he said. 

"We feel that we have to reach places like this on the outskirts of major cities," Briois added, speaking of "this France of the forgotten."

Unemployment in the former mining region is high - 19 per cent against a 10 per cent national average, according to recently released statistics from 2013.

The church and the town hall loom large over the town, eclipsing shops that have gone out of business and bars and cafes that have shut down.

Even Le Pen's local electoral headquarters seems small and unassuming.

Marine Le Pen cast her vote in a local school here on Sunday morning surrounded by reporters and with a National Front security detail in tow.

The steely security men with their red armbands are also very much in evidence at the election night party.

National Front supporters chant «Marine, présidente!» and «On est chez nous» (we are at home here) amidst a musical backdrop of the Marseillaise.

The audience sport red and blue National Front buttons and blue roses. The venue is a sea of French flags.

The audience is ecstatic as the first projections are announced, showing Marine Le Pen and centrist Emmanuel Macron facing off in the May 7 run-off.

"This is a situation we have never had before," says Pierre Deniau, who helps man the entrance to the hall.

Even before all first-round votes have been counted, Le Pen has already won the highest-ever number of votes cast for the National Front, according to unofficial results. 

"This is an evening we have all waited for, for a very long time," says 26-year-old Vénus Baudechon, who has been a party member for three years but says that she has actually "always" been for the National Front.

The high point of the evening, Marine Le Pen's speech, is over very quickly.

She appears on stage accompanied by dramatic music and addresses the crowd for all of five minutes.

"Yes, I am the people's candidate," she calls.

After her speech, she works the crowd briefly, shaking hands with supporters. Then she makes a thumbs up gesture and disappears discretely via a back door.

Marine Le Pen is not in elite Paris tonight, to be sure. But average people in Henin-Beaumont really only get the briefest glimpse of her, even though she has been in their town for most of the day.


© 2021 dpa GmbH

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