French far-right presidential candidate Marin Le Pen rebuffed on Thursday criticism by her rival Emmanuel Macron accusing her of retaining her “authoritarian” and extremist views, despite displaying a softer image in the current campaign.
“This (criticism) makes me smile because we have never had a president who showed more signs of extremism than Emmanuel Macron,” Le Pen told broadcaster France 2, citing police action against political demonstrations, such as the yellow vest movement.
In the interview Le Pen reiterated that, if elected, she thought it conceivable to hold a public referendum on reintroducing the death penalty. She had previously said that personally she would vote against such a step.
Separately, France’s election watchdog said it had sought clarifications from Le Pen’s campaign over statements it had falsely attributed to public authorities on criminality and immigration, one of her core themes.
It said Le Pen did not need to change her leaflets which were already printed, however.
Le Pen called the step launched by the campaign control commission, or CNCCEP, a political “manoeuvre”.
The CNCCEP said it had been looking into claims made by Le Pen about a statistical spike in intentional bodily harm since 2017 and the number of immigrants who have entered France legally since that year, both of which the candidate had falsely attributed to the French interior ministry.
“The Commission asked the candidate to present a new version of her declaration without this attribution”, the CNCCEP said in a statement, but added it would not ask Le Pen’s campaign to withdraw already printed material as this would be “disproportionate.”