It was a classic performance by Marine Le Pen when she met with the AAPA on Jan. 19.


Ever-combative and dynamic but with a twist of selective moderation that fits the new image of the National Front leader as she tries to reshape the image of her far-right party, she is embarking on a skilful marketing campaign ahead of upcoming French municipal and European elections.


Ms. Le Pen, who took over from her father, Jean-Marie, three years ago as party leader, served up almost three-hours of well-rehearsed and smooth rhetoric to some 30 AAPA members, and predicted the demise of the current French political party system. She predicted this will hoist the Front National to the same level of popularity as the UMP and the ruling Socialist Party enjoy today.

Speaking at the austere FN headquarter in Nanterre, Ms. Le Pen blamed the poor representation of the FN in various elected bodies here on a voting system that favours the major parties on the left and right. The FN has only two Deputies in the 577-member National Assembly, three Euro-deputies and a handful of local councillors.

But she predicted that this was about to change in the local and European elections this year.

“The voting system has been used by the major parties in power to conserve the bipolarisation of political life,” she claimed.

“The bipolarisation of political life is very comfortable for the parties in power. One is in power, it disappoints; automatically the other takes advantage of this” and takes over without much effort.

Ms. Le Pen says that the aim of the FN is to get 1,000 city and town councillors elected in the forthcoming election. This compares with 85 councillors today, out of a total of more than 519,400 in all of France.

She also pointed out that, although her party only won three seats with 6% of the French vote in the last European elections, the latest polls give the FN 24%. This would translate, on a proportional basis, into more than 20 MEPs out of 766 in the Strasbourg Assembly, and would allow for a strong alliance with other extreme-right blocs.

“Today, the National Front is at an electoral level that is equivalent to that of the UMP or the PS,” she said.

Beyond electoral questions, Ms. Le Pen sought to portray a moderate stance. Gone is the image of the FN as a “racist” or “xenophobic” party. Instead, Le Pen espoused a “French first” approach that has nothing to do with ethnicity but national preference.

Distancing herself from the more radical policies of certain other extreme-right movements in Europe, she nonetheless maintained her vitriolic criticism of the functioning of the European Union, which she labelled “The Soviet Union of Europe.”

Bridling against what she said was the loss of French sovereignty to Brussels, she called for “exploding” the EU, a position she said would be justified by the strong showing of the far right in the June election, adding this would have a multiplier effect throughout Europe.

“We are at a cross roads…a turning point in French electoral life and political life in France…as we are at the end of a political system,” she said.

-John Keating

-Second page picture: FC