Un­bowed Le Pen looks ahead to par­lia­men­tary polls

New Straits Times - - World -

Far-right leader Marine Le Pen lost her bid to be­come France’s first fe­male chief of state, but she was un­bowed, look­ing in­stead to the next bat­tle: par­lia­men­tary elec­tions next month.

Le Pen’s loss to cen­trist Em­manuel Macron still gave her a his­toric num­ber of votes, re­flect­ing the chang­ing im­age of her once-pariah Na­tional Front party from fringe force to a po­lit­i­cal heavy­weight.

Al­ways a fighter de­fy­ing the odds, the am- bi­tious Le Pen set a new chal­lenge for her­self in the weeks ahead: “A pro­found re­for­ma­tion of our move­ment to con­sti­tute a new po­lit­i­cal force.”

The Na­tional Front’s in­terim pres­i­dent, named while Le Pen cam­paigned for Sun­day’s runoff, said the changes in­clude giving the party a new name.

“It’s open­ing the doors of the move­ment to other per­son­al­i­ties,” said Steve Bri­ois.

Chang­ing the name was dis­cussed at the height of Le Pen’s ef­forts to scrub the party im­age and re­move traces of racism and anti-Semitism that scared away po­ten­tial back­ers.

But party stal­warts saw the change as too rad­i­cal.

A new name would help Le Pen dis­tance her­self from the old guard, in­clud­ing her fa­ther, party founder Jean-Marie, who was kicked out un­der his daugh­ter’s im­age re­vamp­ing.

Le Pen, who came third in the 2012 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, has spent years plant­ing a grass­roots struc­ture for her party.

Now, she vows to go fur­ther with still more changes to reach an even wider spec­trum of vot­ers, “those who choose France, de­fend its in­de­pen­dence, its free­dom, its pros­per­ity, its se­cu­rity, its iden­tity and its so­cial model”.

Le Pen cred­ited her­self with up­set­ting the lo­cal po­lit­i­cal land­scape, cre­at­ing a di­vide “be­tween pa­tri­ots and glob­al­ists”.

“It is this great choice... that will be sub­mit­ted to the French in leg­isla­tive elec­tions,” she said in her con­ces­sion speech.

She said she would seek new al­liances, af­ter one she clinched ahead of the runoff with the leader of a small con­ser­va­tive party, Ni­co­las Dupont-Aig­nan.

Le Pen called on “pa­tri­ots” — the word she uses to de­scribe her­self — to join her. The deck is stacked against the Na­tional Front de­spite its strength.

It now has two deputies only in the Na­tional Assem­bly due to a vot­ing sys­tem that favours main­stream par­ties.

With her fight­ing spirit, the 48year-old Le Pen, a lawyer turned politi­cian, re­sem­bles her fa­ther, who wrenched from a court the right to con­tinue as hon­ourary pres­i­dent for life of the party, even though he was ex­pelled.

Na­tional Front party sup­port­ers of Marine Le Pen danc­ing dur­ing an af­ter­party fol­low­ing her con­ces­sion speech on Sun­day.

Marine Le Pen

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