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Le Pen proposes rebranding National Front

March 11, 2018

The far-right party must transform into a "rallying point to form a majority," Le Pen said at a party congress. She has tried to capitalize on a newfound visibility after her near-success at the presidential election.

National Front party congress
Image: picture alliance/dpa/MAXPPP/P. Pauchet

French far-right leader Marine Le Pen on Sunday proposed renaming the National Front (FN) party to "Rassemblement National," which translates as National Rally or National Union.

"This name, National Front, bears an epic and glorious history," Le Pen said during a two-day party congress in the northern French city of Lille, but she added that it was a "psychological hurdle" for many in France.

The far-right leader has tried to capitalize on its newfound visibility by rebranding the party and shaking off its troublesome history of anti-Semitism.

France: Le Pen proposes far-right party name change

Read more: Can Marine Le Pen's Front National make a comeback?

She said the party was capable of governing "in the eyes of all" and needed to transform itself into a "rallying point to form a majority." In order for the name change to go ahead, a majority of party members will have to back it in a mail-in vote.

Last year, Le Pen made it to the run-off vote in the French presidential election, in which she won 34 percent of the vote and lost out to centrist upstart Emmanuel Macron.

Le Pen was re-elected to serve as FN leader for a third term in a postal vote, the results of which were announced on Sunday. She was the only candidate.

Marine Le Pen
French far-right leader Marine Le Pen casts her leadership ballot at the FN's congress in LilleImage: Getty Images/S. Lefevre

Father out

Nearly 80 percent of FN members voted on Sunday to banish the party's firebrand founder Jean-Marie Le Pen once and for all.

Severing ties with Jean-Marie, Marine Le Pen's father, was approved by party members, in addition to several new bylaws, on the second day of the FN's congress in Lille.

Read more: National Front seeks to exploit poverty in Provence

Jean-Marie, who founded the FN in 1972, did not attend the congress. He was expelled from the party in 2015 for making anti-Semitic remarks but had maintained his position as the party's honorary president for life. The new bylaw does away with the position of president for life.

His multiple convictions for racism and anti-Semitism have complicated efforts by his daughter to clean up the party's image in a bid to broaden its support among French voters disillusioned with the country's mainstream parties.

Party spurred by Steve Bannon speech

The FN was given what it perceived as a major boost on Saturday, as congress-goers were treated to a barnstorming speech by Steve Bannon.

Read more: Trump's former strategist addresses France's far-right party congress

In a call to arms for right-wing politics, Bannon, a former White House adviser under Donald Trump, told FN supporters that "history is on our side," citing surging support for right-wing populist politics in Italy, Poland, Hungary and the US.

Bannon addresses France's far-right party congress

ls,dm/sms (AP, AFP, dpa)

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