Europe

AP Interview: Le Pen tells AP she 'changed everything'

French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen told The Associated Press on Friday that whether or not she wins Sunday's runoff vote, "we changed everything."

In an interview in her Paris headquarters, Le Pen said there could still be a surprise on Sunday despite polls that show she is trailing independent centrist rival Emmanuel Macron by a large margin.

Le Pen has brought her far-right National Front party, once a pariah with racist, anti-Semitic overtones, closer than ever to the French presidency, riding a wave of populism and growing frustration amid working class voters with globalization and immigration.

Even if she loses, she is likely to be a powerful opposition figure in French politics in the coming parliamentary election campaign and beyond.

Le Pen said she has achieved an "ideological victory ... we changed everything."

"Even if we don't reach our goal, in any event, there is a gigantic political force that is born," she said on the last day of campaigning, hours before a legally required election news blackout that starts at midnight.

Le Pen said her party managed to "impose the overhaul" of French politics and set the tone of the presidential election, which was dominated by anti-establishment sentiment. The two parties that have governed France for decades, the leftist Socialists and the right-wing conservatives, did not even make it into the presidential runoff.

"The former traditional parties are all blackballed," Le Pen told the AP.

Asked whether she would be able to bring the divided country together if elected, she was adamant.

"Yes. I want most of all to put democracy back in place," Le Pen said. "We must re-weave the links among people."

She said Macron, by contrast, would worsen divisions, since she says he represents the urban elite and big business interests.