France’s Le Pen meets Ban­non, changes mind on of­fer to help

Daily Sabah (Turkey) - - International -

MA­RINE Le Pen, the French far­right leader, has met with for­mer White House strate­gist Steve Ban­non and sig­naled her in­ter­est in his project to help Euro­pean pop­ulist par­ties — just days af­ter re­ject­ing as­sis­tance from the Amer­i­can.

Le Pen’s com­pan­ion, French law­maker Louis Aliot, said on BFMTV sta­tion on Fri­day that she met with Ban­non a day ear­lier in Paris. Aliot said Ban­non wants to pro­vide “tech­ni­cal means” for na­tion­al­ist par­ties ahead of next year’s Euro­pean elec­tions. He added that Ban­non made clear he “doesn’t want to play a [po­lit­i­cal] role.”

Le Pen said on Mon­day while in Rome that it was only Euro­pean na­tions who would “shape the po­lit­i­cal forces ... to save Europe”— not an Amer­i­can. Le Pen’s dis­tanc­ing was sig­nif­i­cant given Ban­non has been mak­ing the rounds in Europe of late as part of his push for a trans-na­tional, anti-Euro­pean Union move­ment. Le Pen was in Rome to join Salvini at a union con­fer­ence where they showed a united front be­fore the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment elec­tion in May.

Last month, Ban­non ap­peared at a rally in Rome or­ga­nized by a small far- right Ital­ian op­po­si­tion party, Broth­ers of Italy, where he heaped praise on Italy’s pop­ulist, 5-Star-League govern­ment, and he was in Rome for the March 4 elec­tion that brought them to power.

While he didn’t ap­pear with Salvini, who spoke at the rally ear­lier in the day, the two have met and Salvini has pur­port­edly signed onto The Move­ment, ac­cord­ing to one of its pro­po­nents, Bel­gian politi­cian Mis­chaël Mo­drika­men.

In March, Ban­non spoke at Le Pen's Na­tional Front party congress, which had been aimed at re­mak­ing the far-right party’s im­age af­ter it suf­fered a crush­ing de­feat to the pro-glob­al­iza­tion forces that brought Em­manuel Macron to the French pres­i­dency. As part of the makeover, Le Pen changed the party name to Na­tional Rally.

Some in France had warned that Ban­non’s sup­port could threaten Le Pen’s ef­forts to cleanse the party of its racist stigma. Ban­non had praised the ex­treme ver­sion of the Na­tional Front em­bod­ied by Le Pen’s more hard­line niece and ri­val, call­ing her one of the most im­por­tant peo­ple in the world.

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