France’s National Front party is planning a makeover, to counter public misconceptions about it. The move, leader Marine Le Pen hopes, will ensure the nationalist faction a firm position in power for decades to come.
The leader of the National Front, Marine le Pen, formally proposed changing the name of the party to ‘National Rally’ on Sunday, in a speech at the national conference of France’s right in the northern city of Lille.
“The name of Front National is for many French, even in good faith, a psychological brake, to join us or to vote,” she noted, calling for a change to the party name to appeal to French voters.
“Our goal is clear: power,” Le Pen told the delegates. “We were originally a protest party,” she said. “There should be no doubt now that we can be a ruling party.”
“We must establish alliances because, under the Fifth Republic, winning without an alliance is arduous,” Le Pen explained.
While the call to change the party’s name received 52 percent of the votes from the delegates in Lille, the political faction will conduct a mail ballot before any decision is taken. In a related development at the convention, 79 percent of voters also approved new party statutes which include stripping Le Pen’s father, party founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, of his position as honorary president. Le Pen senior was expelled from the party in 2015 over anti-Semitic comments but still kept his honorary title.
Le Pen, who received 33.9 percent of the vote in the second round of the 2017 French presidential election, conceding to the French President Emmanuel Macron, had promised a “re-foundation” of the party after her defeat.
After taking over the leadership of the National Front in 2011, Le Pen has worked hard to remove racist and anti-Semitic associations attached to the party under her father’s leadership. She believes that the party, which was created in 1972, has developed from a protest movement to a strong opposition force which can become a trustworthy force in any political alliances which will ensure NF’s (or National Rally’s) longevity in power.