Marine Le Pen to withhold vote in French presidential run off
Front National leader tells supporters to follow their conscience, and expects 'Marine blue wave' if Sarkozy defeated
Kim Willsher in Paris
1 May 2012
The French far-right [sic] leader Marine Le Pen has told supporters she will not vote for either of the two candidates in Sunday's presidential runoff.
The head of the Front National said she had no confidence in Nicolas Sarkozy or the Socialist challenger, François Hollande, and would cast a blank vote.
She advised the 6.4 million voters who gave her party a record score of nearly 18% of the vote in the first round of the election 10 days ago to follow their conscience.
At a rally near the statue of the Front National's symbolic heroine Joan of Arc at Place de l'Opéra, in central Paris, the crowd chanted: "Sarko, Hollande, it's the same."
Le Pen told them: "I have made my choice. Each of you will make yours. You are free citizens and you should vote according to your conscience. I will not give my confidence or my mandate for one or the other. Sunday, I will vote blank."
She added: "There is no right or left … they are the same faces of the same system. We are the party who will reconcile the French, we are the great party of national unity. They are for the world and for Europe, we are for the nation and patriotic … we have touched the spirit and the intelligence of the French people."
Le Pen said the Front National's success meant a "great project of emancipation" had begun in France.
Opinion polls suggest Hollande has a lead of up to 10 percentage points in the runoff. Sarkozy held a rival May day rally, while Hollande chose not to attend a unions' rally at the Bastille.
The two men will go head-to-head in a live television debate on Wednesday. Sarkozy continues to court far-right [sic] voters, saying in an interview with RMC radio on Tuesday that he thought France had too many immigrants.
If Sarkozy is defeated on Sunday Le Pen is counting on the 'mainstream' right to implode in an internecine struggle for control of the ruling UMP party. She expects a "Marine blue wave" to sweep the country, bringing dozens of Front National MPs into parliament in legislative elections in June, and establishing her party as the opposition.
These MPs, she said, would be "your soldiers, your defenders, your lawyers. Thanks to you we are finally on our way back, here in our own home."
Le Pen's father, Jean-Marie, now honorary president of the Front National, which he founded in the 1970s, also addressed the crowd of several thousand. Joan of Arc, he said, "represents the most extraordinary destiny in human history … the history of France."