France's Donald Trump to visit Paris of the Orient

France's Donald Trump to visit Paris of the Orient
Far-right presidential candidate and France's answer to Donald Trump is visiting Lebanon, a former French colony, next week, but her agenda there is not clear.
3 min read
15 February, 2017
The far-right candidate will meet with Lebanon's Christian President Michel Aoun [AFP]

Far-right French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen is to visit Beirut, where she will meet with the former French colony's president and prime minister.

"Madame Le Pen will be in Beirut on the 19th and 20th, and will meet [President Michel] Aoun and [Prime Minister Saad] Hariri Monday," a Lebanese government source told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The purpose of her visit is likely symbolic, in light of Lebanon being home to one of the Middle East's most prominent Christian communities, in addition to its historic cultural links to France.

Le Pen's critics accuse her of being an Islamophobe. She has also aligned herself with the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria together with several far-right entities in Europe who have claimed, many say falsely, that Assad is a bastion of secularism against radical Islamic militants and a protector of minorities -- Christians included. 

Her visit is a gesture to the "Christians of the Orient," a source from her party, the National Front, was quoted by Lebanon's French daily L'Orient Le Jour as saying on Wednesday.

The latest polls for April's presidential vote show Le Pen leading with 27 percent in the first round, but she is not expected to triumph in a run off. 

However, Arun Kant, chief executive and chief investment officer at Singapore-based investing firm Leonie Hill Capital, told CNBC on Thursday that he expected the right-wing populist to prevail based on predictions by his firm's proprietary artificial intelligence system's analysis of troves of data, possibly scoring an upset similar to Donald Trump's. unexpected win in November.

At her campaign launch earlier this month, Le Pen vowed to put France first and to fight "terrorism", and she has called for dialogue with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Foreign policy stunt

At her campaign launch earlier this month, Le Pen vowed to put France first and to fight "terrorism", and she has called for dialogue with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Le Pen in a magazine interview last month said Syrians were "waiting for... Assad to win this war against Islamist fundamentalists."

In Lebanon, news of her visit was met with mixed reactions.

Some on social media denounced her and said she was not welcome, but others hailed her visit as good news for the country's Christians.

Lebanon, hosting millions of mainly Muslim Syrian and Palestinian refugees has had its own centre- and far-right parties that have links to their counterparts in Europe, and sometimes promote a similar anti-immigration narratives based on the clash of Islam and Christianity. Lebanon's civil war was fought mainly between Muslims and Christians.

Following the election of Donald Trump, who has retained the services of a number of Lebanese Christian aides, some support has emerged for the controversial US president on social media.

Le Pen's rival presidential candidate and former economy minister Emmanuel Macron visited Beirut on January 24, where he met top leaders.

While he did not call for an alliance with Assad, 39-year-old centrist Macron advocated for a "balanced policy" towards the regime and the myriad rebels fighting it.

Right-wing candidate Francois Fillon, dogged by revelations his wife Penelope was paid for years for a suspected fake job as a parliamentary aide, cancelled a visit early this month to Lebanon and Iraq.

Paris had mandate power over Lebanon and neighbouring Syria during the first half of last century. French leaders and politicians routinely visit the country, home to a contingent of French peacekeeping forces, to boost their foreign policy credentials.

With input from AFP