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French far-right party reelects Le Pen

July 4, 2021

Marine Le Pen defended the push to make the National Rally more mainstream, but also said her party was right about "society's descent into savagery." She is hoping to boost her 2022 presidential bid after taking a hit.

Marine Le Pen
Le Pen received 98.35% of the vote, according to a tweet from a senior party officialImage: Geoffroy Van Der Hasselt/AFP/Getty Images

The French far-right opposition National Rally (RN) party elected its incumbent leader Marine Le Pen on Sunday, with no opposing candidates.

Le Pen is seeking to breathe new life into her campaign for the presidency next year, after the party's recent electoral disappointment.

Formerly known as the National Front, the RN party was tipped for strong gains in last month's regional elections, but ultimately failed to win any of the 13 regions in mainland France.

Those results raised questions about Le Pen's efforts to detoxify her party's image and establish it as a more mainstream right-wing force.

France votes in regional elections — Lisa Louis reports

Party confidence

Nevertheless, her reelection, with "98.35%" of the vote, prompted European Parliament lawmaker, and fellow RN member, Jerome Riviere, to confidently predict on Twitter that Sunday's result will propel Le Pen towards a "presidential election victory in 2022."

Le Pen has held the role for 10 years and wants to run again in the French presidential election in nine months' time, when her main opponent is likely to be the incumbent, Emmanuel Macron, to whom she lost the last nationwide ballot in 2017.

Le Pen defends overhaul of party image

Le Pen defended changes to the party to make it more mainstream during a keynote address later on Sunday.

"The National Rally has experienced a healthy change. We will not go back to the (old school) National Front," Le Pen said during a party gathering in the southern city of Perpignan.

Le Pen said the party had "ideological" successes. 

"We were right about immigration, about society's descent into savagery, about globalization and so many other subjects that dominate the political debate," the National Rally leader said.

Le Pen painted a dark picture of France during the remarks, saying the country is plagued by "crime bosses, Islamists, and mafias." She promised to crack down on crime and said if elected, she would hold a nationwide referendum on immigration.

"This victory, we're going to go out and get it," Le Pen said, referring to the upcoming 2022 presidential race. She said voters will have the chance to make a "historic choice" between nationalism and globalization.

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jsi, wd/mm (AFP, dpa)