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Le Pen niece to address CPAC

David Martin AFP
February 20, 2018

Marion Marechal-Le Pen, the niece of far-right National Front leader Marine, will speak at CPAC, taking the stage after US Vice President Mike Pence. Moderate Republicans have expressed concern at the invite.

Marion Marechal-Le Pen
Image: picture-alliance/abaca/S. Lefevre

Marion Marechal-Le Pen, the niece of French far-right leader Marine Le Pen and former rising star of France's National Front (FN), will return to the public eye Thursday with a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in the United States.

Marechal-Le Pen is set to address the crowd as the second event headliner, shortly after US Vice President Mike Pence. President Donald Trump is scheduled to speak at the same event just outside of Washington DC on Friday, as is Brexit champion Nigel Farage .

Read more: The left's deafening silence

Marechal-Le Pen, a 27-year-old former FN parliamentarian , is the granddaughter of the far-right party's co-founder, Jean-Marie Le Pen. She entered the French parliament in 2012 at the age of 22, making her the youngest elected MP since the French revolution.

The former lawmaker is considered to have an even more hardline stance than her aunt on themes such as Islam and immigration. She is against state-funded abortion and remains a favorite among many grassroots FN voters. Even Trump's former strategist Steve Bannon once hailed her as a rising star.

However, back in May, she announced her exit from politics for "personal and political reasons" following her aunt's defeat in the French presidential election to Emmanuel Macron.

Tensions and political disagreements between the two family members were widely reported in the French press and were thought to have pushed her to quit politics.

Far right tries, and fails, to sway French election

The start of a comeback?

Her appearance at the high-profile gathering of US Republicans, however, suggests that she could be planning a comeback — and could soon even succeed her aunt as FN leader. The anti-Europe, anti-immigration party is currently struggling.

Marine Le Pen has pushed to sanitize the party from the image of her father Jean-Marie, who has several convictions for racism and anti-Semitism.

Read more: France: Former Le Pen aide Florian Philippot launches far-right political party

However, her struggle for a more moderate platform has fractured the party base. The FN leader admitted this week she would be prepared to step aside if a better candidate were to emerge in the run-up to the 2022 election.

Le Pen is slated to hold a party congress next month, where she is expected to define the FN's position ahead of the upcoming European elections.

Europe's future: between populists and reformers?

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