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Brooking no dissent, Marine Le Pen takes grip on French far-right


Marine Le Pen, member of parliament and head of France's far-right National Front (FN) political party, attends a news conference on the state of emergency bill ahead of the extraordinary parliamentary session opening in Paris, France, September 25, 2017.

PARIS - Marine Le Pen has acted to reassert her authority over France’s far-right National Front with the forced departure of her deputy, but still faces a struggle to persuade the party base that she has what it takes to win an election.

The exit of Florian Philippot, who quit last week over policy differences with Le Pen since her resounding defeat by Emmanuel Macron in May’s presidential election, shows the 49-year-old daughter of party founder Jean-Marie Le Pen can be tough when required.

But her past flip-flops over policy, and less-than-assured performance in a TV debate against Macron before the presidential run-off, have raised doubts about whether she can take the National Front from being a major factor in French politics to a party that can hold power.

“Le Pen’s image has seriously deteriorated,” said Frederic Dabi of polling group Ifop, who carried out a survey on Sept 7-8 that shows only 27 percent of voters think she has the stature of a president, down seven percentage points since March.

“Her problem in terms of image is not authority, she is seen as being very firm, but it is competence, stature,” he said. “Can she be seen as an alternative to Emmanuel Macron? It’s not looking that way.”

Le Pen took a lower-than-expected 33.9 percent of votes in the presidential run-off, while her party won only 8.75 percent in the second round of parliamentary elections that followed.

However, support for the European far-right may not have peaked despite setbacks in the Netherlands and Austria too. At the weekend, the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany scored 12.6 percent in federal elections, becoming the first far-right party to enter the Bundestag in more than half a century -- an outcome Le Pen praised.[nL8N1M6092] [nL5N1M50PJ]

A lawyer by training, Le Pen took over the party in 2011 and quickly managed to build a broader following. She succeeded in detoxifying its image, distancing it from the anti-Semitic labels it attracted under her father, and adopting pro-welfare economic policies that appealed to a wider range of voters.

Out went her father, the one-eyed former paratrooper who reveled in provocative comments, expelled from the party in 2015. In came the daughter’s softer image, with talk of lowering the retirement age and protecting workers. She went on TV to talk about her love of gardening.

A lot of that image adjustment was down to Philippot, a graduate of France’s elite ENA administrative school who joined the party in 2011 and quickly rose to the top, an architect of Le Pen’s 2012 and 2017 campaigns.

But having broken with her father and now with Philippot, Le Pen must now show that she can get the policy mix right before another possible presidential bid in 2022.

The dispute with Philippot came to a head over the party’s anti-euro stance. For her supporters, Le Pen’s willingness to sacrifice her closest aide when he refused to do what he was told underscores her leadership credentials.



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Muslim Global: Brooking no dissent, Marine Le Pen takes grip on French far-right
Brooking no dissent, Marine Le Pen takes grip on French far-right
Marine Le Pen has acted to reassert her authority over France’s far-right National Front with the forced departure of her deputy, but still faces a struggle to persuade the party base that she has what it takes to win an election.
Muslim Global
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