By Sofia Bouderbala -
LONG at the heart of France’s far right, the Le Pen family is emerging as a dynasty after National Front founder Jean-Marie’s daughter and granddaughter both racked up strong poll results.
Seen for years as a bastion of extremism, the National Front has been getting a makeover from two telegenic blondes: Marine Le Pen (pictured), who took over leadership of the party from her father last year, and her niece Marion Marechal-Le Pen, a 22-year-old law student running for parliament.
After Marine posted a strong showing in the first round of the presidential election in April, with 17.9 per cent of the vote, Marion seized the ultra-conservative spotlight by taking first place in the south-eastern constituency of Vaucluse in Sunday’s first-round parliamentary vote.
Jean-Marie, the 83-year-old patriarch and veteran of five presidential races, himself launched his granddaughter’s campaign, praising her “good pedigree”.
“From the name I carry, I have an example to live up to,” responded Marion.
She went on to win 34.6 per cent of the vote, finishing ahead of a Socialist challenger and the incumbent from the centre-right UMP, the outgoing ruling party.
Her aunt Marine also finished first in her parliamentary race in the rundown former mining constituency of Henin-Beaumont, near the northern city of Lille.
Marine, 43, took 42 per cent of the vote, beating the Socialist challenger she will face in next Sunday’s second round and crushing Far Left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon, who had decided to confront her but bowed out of the next round after emerging bruised with only 21.5 per cent.
She claimed the result meant her party — which wants to ditch the euro and battles against what she calls the “radicalisation” of France — is now the country’s third political power.
The National Front, which has not won a seat in parliament since 1986, took 13.6 per cent of the first-round legislative vote nationwide, far more than the four per cent it achieved in the last parliamentary election in 2007.
“There’s a brand effect,” said political analyst Jean-Yves Camus.
“It is undoubtedly a success for the strategy of de-demonisation,” he added — a nod to the softer image Marine has given a party long associated with her father’s extremist outbursts.