Unbowed Le Pen looks ahead to parliamentary polls
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