|Marine Le Pen at a rally on Sunday in Hénin-Beaumont, France. Charles Platiau/Reuter|
A day after mainstream parties were dealt a heavy defeat in the French presidential election, the far-right leader Marine Le Pen, one of the two candidates to advance to a runoff, condemned the parties’ calls to unite against her and support her rival, the independent centrist Emmanuel Macron.
Ms. Le Pen’s statement on Monday denouncing “the old and completely rotten Republican Front” — the coalition of mainstream parties allied against her — sums up her challenge in the May 7 runoff. So far, not a single rival party has called for its voters to support Ms. Le Pen. And she has no plausible major reservoir of votes to add to the 21.3 percent she received in the first round of voting, though she is expected to gain some voters from the defeated center-right candidate François Fillon.
Perhaps in an effort to broaden her appeal to voters from outside the far-right National Front’s traditional constituencies, Ms. Le Pen announced on Twitter on Monday that she was temporarily stepping down as the party’s leader so she could run as a candidate for “all the French.”
“Tonight, I am not the president of the National Front, I am the presidential candidate, the one who wants to gather all the French around a project of hope, of prosperity, of security,” she said in an interview on French television.
Most of Ms. Le Pen’s rivals have gathered around the effort to defeat her. Only one major candidate has resisted calls to unite against her: Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the firebrand hard-left candidate who came in fourth and who has pointedly refused to support Mr. Macron, saying instead that he would seek the opinion of his supporters through his website. Similarly, traditionalist Roman Catholic organizations that backed Mr. Fillon refused to endorse Mr. Macron on Monday.
Some of Ms. Le Pen’s advisers said, in interviews with French news media on Monday, that they were hoping to lure some of the supporters of the defeated Mr. Mélenchon, whose populist program bore similarities to that of Ms. Le Pen: hostility to the European Union, NATO and the forces of globalization, and a forgiving attitude toward Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin.
Many of Mr. Mélenchon’s supporters may have little fondness for Ms. Le Pen, but in interviews they expressed equal disdain for the pro-free market Mr. Macron. “For me, Le Pen, Macron, it’s the same,” said Olivia Scemama, a musician from the 18th Arrondissement of Paris who said she voted for Mr. Mélenchon. “With Macron, it’s the extremism of banks, of finance.”
The election results published Monday suggested another hurdle for Ms. Le Pen to overcome: a sharp urban-rural divide in the vote, with voters in France’s major cities heavily favoring her rivals. The geography and sociology of her support was similar to Donald J. Trump’s support in the 2016 United States presidential race. She won more départements — between a county and a state in French political geography — than Mr. Macron, and she won the working-class vote. But she did poorly in what French sociologists call “Winner’s France” — urban, employed, well-educated and pro-European. She received less than 5 percent of the vote in Paris, less than 8 percent in Bordeaux and less than 9 percent in Lyon.
Stock markets opened higher on Monday across Europe, a sign that investors were relieved by Mr. Macron’s strong showing. Ms. Le Pen wants France to leave the euro currency zone, a prospect that created unease on international markets in the prelude to the first round of voting.
Polls released Monday showed that about 60 percent of voters supported Mr. Macron, compared with less than 40 percent for Ms. Le Pen. A live televised debate between the candidates is set for May 3.
In Hénin-Beaumont, the northern French city where Ms. Le Pen won 46 percent of the vote and whose National Front mayor is one of her top advisers, even supporters were pessimistic about her chances in the runoff. “It’s a bummer,” said Jean-Louis Devienne, 72. “If people could come here and see how good the National Front has been for our town, they would understand how good it can be for our country.”
On Monday, Ms. Le Pen continued to emphasize the anti-immigrant and anti-globalization views that propelled her into the second round, and she denounced the efforts of the mainstream parties to keep her out of the presidency.
“The old and completely rotten Republican Front, which no one wants, and which the French have pushed away with exceptional violence, is trying to coalesce around Mr. Macron,” Ms. Le Pen said in Rouvroy, a town in the deindustrialized north of France where her message tends to resonate with voters.
|The independent centrist Emmanuel Macron on Monday in Paris. Benoit Tessier/Reuters|