Le Pen suggested that the FN was still associated with the anti-Semitism and racism of her father Jean-Marie Le Pen, when questioned. “Yes, I think so. It does not encourage unity beyond the party,” she said.
“There are many things to change but first of all we must consult our members,” Le Pen said. She explained that a questionnaire would be sent to the membership shortly, “probably in September” after the summer vacation. Results obtained from the questionnaire will shape the party’s future at a congress in March 2018, she told France Info radio.
Emmanuel Macron won 66.1 percent to Le Pen’s 33.9 percent, a result Macron could only achieve as a result of a record number of voters staying home.
Le Pen, 48, had already proposed a party renewal on the night the election results were announced, in order to form a political home for “all patriots”. The FN won eight seats in the 577-member National Assembly in the June parliamentary elections, a fourfold increase compared to the outgoing parliament.
Marine Le Pen and Florian Philippot, the deputy chairman, represent the anti-EU faction of the party, with a following mainly in northeastern France, or Hauts-de-France, which is Marine’s political stronghold. The former industrial heartland of France, is currently suffering from high unemployment as a result of globalisation and directives from Brussels that have hurt the region.
But only a fifth of French people support leaving the euro, and only 60 per cent of National Front voters, according to a Kantar Sofres poll.
Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, who was elected to the French National Assembly in 2012 at the age of 22 and became the country’s youngest lawmaker ever, was the leading figure of the anti-immigration faction in the party in the south of the country, a much more popular theme.
Maréchal-Le Pen declined to represent her party and seek re-election this year because of her rivalry with her aunt. The party was split over whether it should adopt anti-EU or anti-immigration as its main party line.
Some National Front supporters have called for Marion Maréchal Le-Pen to take her aunt’s place in order to promote her grandfather’s ideas. “It would be idiotic to say that I am not the ideological heir of my grandfather,” she told the Financial Times (FT).
Cécile Alduy, professor at Stanford University said of Marion: “Young, eloquent and bold . . . She can attract the type of disenchanted socially conservative mainstream voters who care about abortion and gay marriage.”
One senior FN supporter told the FT: “Marion is our secret weapon.” Some are already predicting that it is she, not Marine, who will become France’s first female head of state.
Marion’s absence can weaken the FN, especially in PACA, short for Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur. PACA is one of the 18 administrative regions of France. Its capital is Marseille. For Christèle Marchand-Lagier, specialist of the FN in this region, Marion’s departure “is not neutral in the abstention of young people”.
A few days after the announcement of her decision not to run for a new term of office, it was reported that Maréchal-Le Pen would drop the name “Le Pen” by the French weekly Paris Match.
“Since this stupidity is growing, I want to clarify that this story of ‘giving up my name’ is wrong. #FakeNews,” Marion insisted. Insiders say the fake news was the work of her aunt.
Marine Le Pen is facing some difficulties ahead, as one of 17 Front National European lawmakers who are being investigated over EU salaries paid to about 40 parliamentary assistants.