Marine Le Pen vows to build alliances in wake of heavy defeat

Defeated far-right leader Marine Le Pen is already targeting parliamentary elections next month.

Ms Le Pen's loss to centrist Emmanuel Macron still gave her a historic number of votes, reflecting the changing image of her once-pariah National Front party from fringe force to a political heavyweight.

Always a fighter defying the odds, the ambitious Ms Le Pen set a new challenge for herself in the weeks ahead: "a profound reformation of our movement to constitute a new political force".

The National Front's interim president, named while Ms Le Pen campaigned for Sunday's run-off, said the changes include giving the party a new name.

"It's opening the doors of the movement to other personalities," Steeve Briois said.

Changing the name was discussed at the height of Ms Le Pen's efforts to scrub the party image and remove traces of racism and anti-Semitism that scared away potential backers.

Party stalwarts saw the change as too radical.

A new name would help Ms Le Pen distance herself from the old guard, including her father, party founder Jean-Marie, who was kicked out under his daughter's image revamping.

Ms Le Pen, who came third in the 2012 presidential election, has spent years planting a grassroots structure for her party.

In 2014, the National Front won 11 towns in municipal elections, and her party performed better than any in France in elections for the European Parliament, where she co-presides over a far-right group.

Now she vows to go further with still more changes to reach an even wider spectrum of voters, "those who choose France, defend its independence, its freedom, its prosperity, its security, its identity and its social model".

"I will be at the head of this combat," she said.

Ms Le Pen credited herself with upsetting the French political landscape, creating a divide "between patriots and globalists".

"It is this great choice ... that will be submitted to the French in legislative elections," she said in her concession speech.

She said she will seek new alliances, after one she clinched ahead of the run-off with the leader of a small conservative party, Nicolas Dupont-Aignan.

Ms Le Pen called on "patriots", the word she uses to describe herself, to join her.

The deck is stacked against the National Front despite its strength.

It now has only two deputies in the National Assembly due to a voting system that favours more mainstream parties.

AP


 

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