Following Outrage, France's Le Pen Backtracks on Bid to Abolish Dual Citizenship

While visiting Lebanon, the far-right presidential candidate says she would permit dual citizenship if France and the other country in question had signed an agreement.

French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen speaks during a press conference, Beirut, Lebanon, February 21, 2017.
Hussein Malla/AP

French far-right National Front presidential candidate Marine Le Pen backtracked on Tuesday on her proposal to abolish dual citizenship in France in a lengthy interview with the French-language Lebanese paper L’Orient-Le Jour.

Le Pen, who is polling favorably in the race for the presidency, is using a two-day visit to Lebanon to bolster her foreign policy credentials nine weeks ahead of the April 23 first round, and may be partly targeting potential Franco-Lebanese votes. 

In the interview, she said she believes dual citizenship holders must decide which country is their real homeland, “but I’m not locked into abolishing dual citizenship.”

In response to a follow-up question, she added that she would permit dual citizenship if France and the other country in question had signed an agreement related to the matter.

While abolishing dual citizenship has been part of Le Pen’s platform for years, some of her supporters oppose it, among them both French Christians with Lebanese citizenship and French Jews with Israeli citizenship

Many Lebanese fled to France, Lebanon's former colonial power, during their country's 1975-1990 civil war and became French citizens.

Meanwhile, Le Pen’s popularity continued to rise. Recent polls have found that if elections were held today, she would win more votes than any other candidate in the first round. Although she would still lose in the runoff, the gap between her and either of her two mostly likely opponents – the mainstream rightist candidate Francois Fillon and the centrist Emmanuel Macron – has narrowed sharply, to just 12 percentage points.

Reuters contributed to this report.