French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen is stepping down as leader of the National Front, her longtime political home.
After Sunday's first round of multi-candidate voting, center-left candidate Emmanuel Macron and Le Pen qualified for the May 7 runoff. Macro is currently the heavy favorite in the head-to-head matchup. The establishment parties failed to qualify for the second round.
As many pundits see it, the election is now coming down to a choice between globalism vs. nationalism.
Le Pen is the candidate of the populist, anti-establishment National Front, a party that the news media reflexively describes as far right, although Le Pen's protectionist economic platform has similarities perhaps to those espoused by Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, the self-described socialist who ran for U.S. president as a Democrat.
While first-time candidate and former investment banker Macron is pro-European Union, Le Pen, a foe of open-borders immigration and radical Islam, and has vowed to give French voters a Frexit referendum on staying or leaving the EU, similar to Brexit.
In an interview after one police officer was killed in the recent terrorist attack in Paris, he suggested that terrorism will be "part of our daily lives for years to come," the Guardian reported. Le Pen, an elected member of the EU parliament, has vowed to restore law and order and security to France.
On French television, Le Pen explained that "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," the New York Times reported about Le Pen stepping down from the party leadership, at least temporarily, to concentrate on the remaining two weeks of the election campaign.
This announcement could also be a way for Le Pen to attempt expand her voter base among those who may be uncomfortable with the legacy of the National Front. Marine Le Pen kicked her father, party founder and Holocaust denier Jean-Marie Le Pen, out of the National Front in August 2015, as part of an ongoing rebranding and image softening for the party.
Presumably, Le Pen and her key aides have been game-planning for weeks the expected second-round contest with Macron.
"Le Pen has said in the past that she is not a candidate of her party, and made that point when she rolled out her platform in February, saying the measures she was espousing were not her party's, but her own," Fox News explained.In what may be familiar to American voters from the 2016 presidential election here, virtually the entire political and media establishment in France supports Macron. Most of the establishment has written off the possibility of a Le Pen win. On Monday, Le Pen described the mainstream parties as "old and completely rotten."
Emmanuel Macron was an official in the socialist administration of President Francois Hollande, who dropped his re-election bid, the Daily Mail reported.
"Macron was virtually unknown before his mentor, outgoing Socialist President Francois Hollande, made him economy minister in 2014. But as Hollande entered the fifth year of a tumultuous presidency, becoming France's most unpopular leader in living memory because of a dismal economic record, Macron struck out on his own."
On Monday, in what appears to be odd timing, the media started tossing around unsubstantiated allegations of Russian meddling in the French election. According to WikiLeaks, the U.S. CIA spied on Marine Le Pen and other candidates seeking the French presidency.
[Featured Image by Frank Augstein/AP Images]