Marine Le Pen, France’s far-right candidate and the leader of the National Front, held a rally in Bordeaux on Sunday. At the rally, Le Pen railed against globalization, saying, “We do not want France to be open to all commercial and human flows, without protection and borders.”
Le Pen addressed the 1,500-seat crowd, focusing on the French youth in particular. BuzzFeed News spoke to several young people at the rally who said they were going to vote for Le Pen.
Sunday was Candice's first time attending a National Front rally, even though she said she has been following Le Pen's campaign for months. “I am already sure that I'll vote for her," the 19-year-old told BuzzFeed News.
Sporting a blinking “Marine Le Pen” badge, she was standing on one of the black seats reserved for members of the "National Front Youth," waving a French flag that she was given while entering the Parc des Expositions in Bordeaux.
“I am really interested in her program, especially what she is proposing for young people, like changing the retirement age to let people retire earlier so that we can find work,” Candice said. “I’ve found that I can trust Marine, whereas some of the other candidates actually want to delay the retirement age."
Candice has been open about her preferences with her family and her friends. But during parties, she said that she doesn't reveal that she's going to vote for Le Pen, "to avoid confrontations, because Le Pen remains a swear word for many young people."
Seated on the front row of the grandstand a few meters away from Candice, 21-year-old Benjamin told BuzzFeed News that it's pretty controversial to talk about Marine Le Pen at his university.
He said he's annoyed by the stance of some of his teachers. "It is hard to show one's support for the National Front at the university," he said. "Some teachers make remarks in their classes that make it quite clear that they don't like Marine Le Pen, but it is difficult to debate with them."
So Benjamin only talks about politics with his friends and his family. He said his father is also voting for the National Front after years of voting for socialists. Benjamin said he came to the Bordeaux rally "out of conviction," because he wants to elect a president who "must call to recover France's sovereignty and whose immigration policy must be a closed one."
Both Candice and Benjamin said they will submit a blank ballot out of protest if Marine Le Pen is eliminated in France's first election round on April 23. "Never in a million years will I vote for Macron, and for Fillon either, as he has an economic program that is too harsh," Benjamin said.
Sunday wasn't Marie's first National Front rally. The 23-year-old law student came all the way from Brittany to listen to Le Pen.
In 2012, Marie said she wrote-in Le Pen's name in the voting ballot. "I think that Marine represents a chance for France; having a woman as head of state would be a victory," she said. "In addition, she has such charisma when she goes abroad."
Convinced that Le Pen will make it into the second round of France's presidential election, Marie said she felt a dynamic within the National Front that, according to her, was not there five years ago. "Today, voting for Le Pen is much less uninhibited, especially among young people who find a renewal in her and not in the left-wing party," she said.
Maxence, a 24-year-old who works in a clothing store in the Nantes region, told BuzzFeed News he has already attended five National Front rallies.
"In her meetings, there is something that has been overcome, like a kind of awareness that this time we could conquer the Élysée," he said about Le Pen.
In Maxence’s social circle, more and more people are voting for the National Front, he said, but he admitted it is still hard for young people to say out loud that they support the National Front.
“But Marine Le Pen has managed to de-demonize a party that however has had the right ideas to lift France from the beginning. But we are almost there and you will see on April 23, just like with Brexit and Trump, everybody will fall from their chair. It’s not as if I didn’t warn you.”
This post was translated from French.