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9th Dec 2022

Le Pen senior mars French far-right party's new image

  • Marine Le Pen's strategy to detoxify the National Front's image is disputed by her father and party founder. (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)

Two weeks after local elections with mixed results, old National Front demons are back to haunt French far-right leader Marine Le Pen.

Le Pen is facing controversial new declarations by her father, National Front founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, and further revelations of her party’s links with Russia.

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  • Le Pen is suspected of having received Russian money for her support to Crimea's annexation. (Photo: James Rea)

On 22 and 29 March, the National Front got its best result ever in a local elections with a 25 percent share of the votes in the first round, and 22 percent in the second round. But it failed to win a single department and got only 62 seats out of more than 4,000.

The results demonstrated the party’s appeal to protest voters and its growing support in all French regions and social groups.

But it also demonstrated that French voters remain wary of actually electing National Front candidates when they are in a position to win.

Party leaders denounced the two-round system, which they say favours the main parties of the "political system". They expect better results at next December regional elections under a proportional voting regime.

"Regional elections are with a different voting system. As a result, logics will be different. I think we can hope for important wins in four or five regions," said Marine Le Pen.

But Le Pen’s "detoxification" strategy, dsigned to smooth her party’s image and convince reluctant voters, has been undermined by her father.

In an interview with far-right magazine Rivarol to be published on Thursday (9 April), Jean-Marie Le Pen attacks his daughter and shatters the moderate image she is trying to build for the party he founded in 1972.

"You’re only betrayed by your own," said Le Pen, referring to his daughter Marine.

The interview comes a week after Marine Le Pen had to distance herself from her father’s renewed affirmation that "gas chambers are a detail" of World War II.

In the interview with Rivarol, Le Pen also reaffirmed the far-right and xenophobic credentials of the National Front.

"I never considered Petain as a traitor," he said, referring to the Marechal Philippe Petain, who took power after France’s defeat in 1940 and headed the Vichy state which collaborated with the Nazis.

"I never regarded as bad French or unacceptable those people who kept their esteem to the marechal," he added.

A week before he said that the National Front counted "fervent Petainists" in its ranks.

Ethnic debate

While Marine Le Pen attack the main parties and the government in particular for their liberal and pro-European policies, her father put the debate on an ethnic level.

"We are governed by immigrants and children of immigrants," he said in the interview.

"Valls has been French for 30 years. I have been French for 1,000 years," he added, referring to Spain-born prime minister Manuel Valls.

"What is Valls’ real attachment to France? Has this immigrant completely changed?," he asked.

The declarations cannot be easily discounted as irrelevant by Marine Le Pen, because her father will probably be one of the main party candidates in the regional elections in December.

The 86-year old Le Pen could head the National Front list in the Provence-Alpes-Cote-d’Azur region. With 5 million inhabitants and cities like Marseille, Cannes and Nice, the region is one of the biggest electoral targets for the party.

The campaign would put an inconvenient light on her father only one and half year before the next presidential election, where she will need to establish herself as a responsible stateswoman in order to win.

Russian links

Marine Le Pen could also be obliged to clarify her party’s links with Russia.


In early April, the Mediapart news website revealed that the National Front got Russian money as a reward for its support for the annexation of Crimea by Russia last year.

According to hacked SMS-es published by Mediapart, the head of the Kremlin internal affairs department, Timur Prokopenko, and a person identified as Russian MP Konstantin Rykov discussed how "it will be necessary to thank the French in one way or another".

Marine Le Pen "hasn't betrayed our expectations," wrote Prokopenko in an SMS on 17 March, just after the National Front leader recognised the Crimea move.

In September last year, the National Front got a €9 million loan from the First Czech Russian Bank.

Jean-Marie le Pen also got a personal loan from a Cyprus-based firm headed by a former KGB officer.

In his interview to Rivarol, Le Pen called for an alliance with Russia to "save Northern Europe and the white world".

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