REIMS, France (Reuters) – French far-right leader Marine Le Pen, whose campaign for the presidency has been shaken by a series of defections, told a campaign meeting she has what it takes to bounce back after overcoming many challenges in her personal life.
“I am ready for the supreme position. I always bounced back,” Le Pen told a campaign rally in Reims, eastern France.
Challenges Le Pen faced through her life ranged from the divorce of her parents when she was a teenager to surviving a blast in an attack against her family in 1976 to raising her children as a single parent, she said.
Le Pen was holding her first large campaign meeting ahead of April’s presidential election on Saturday, while far-right rival Eric Zemmour held a rally in Lille, northern France, on the same day.
A former journalist who has been convicted of inciting racial hatred, Zemmour has also seen his campaign lose some steam over the past weeks, after an initial meteoric rise in opinion surveys.
Zemmour currently polls fourth, behind centre-right president Emmanuel Macron, the conservatives’ Valerie Pecresse and Le Pen.
Le Pen lost to Macron in the 2017 election.
Le Pen’s campaign has however taken major blows in recent weeks, as key figures from her party have joined Zemmour.
Last month Le Pen’s niece Marion Marechal, a popular figure among far-right French voters, said Zemmour was a better candidate, piling woes on to a campaign already troubled by the defection of two EU lawmakers.
Recent defections illustrate how Le Pen’s strategy to make her party more acceptable to traditional centre-right voters is alienating core supporters and has left her outflanked further to the right by Zemmour.
(Reporting by Dominique Vidalon; Editing by Alex Richardson)