- Title: Wounded National Front seeks way back after French poll failures
- Date: 21st July 2017
- Summary: PARIS, FRANCE (FILE - JUNE 21, 2017) (REUTERS) PHOTO SESSION AT STEPS OF PARLIAMENT WITH LE PEN AND OTHER NATIONAL FRONT MP'S LE PEN LE PEN WALKING INTO PARLIAMENT FOLLOWED BY MPS NANTERRE, FRANCE (FILE - JANUARY 12, 2011) (REUTERS) EXTERIOR OF NATIONAL FRONT HEADQUARTERS SIGN ON BUILDING READING NATIONAL FRONT
- Embargoed: 4th August 2017 11:34
- Keywords: France National Front Marine Le Pen election failure French elections party rows far-right
- Location: PARIS, NANTERRE, MARSEILLE, CARPENTRAS, LILLE, HENIN-BEAUMONT AND UNKNOWN LOCATION, FRANCE
- City: PARIS, NANTERRE, MARSEILLE, CARPENTRAS, LILLE, HENIN-BEAUMONT AND UNKNOWN LOCATION, FRANCE
- Country: France
- Topics: Government/Politics,Elections/Voting
- Reuters ID: LVA00E6QNUC7B
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Top officials from France's far-right National Front gather on Friday (July 21) to find a way back from successive election failures, and senior members said everything from the party's name to its vow to restore the franc currency were up for review.
Leader Marine le Pen vowed to "deeply renew" the party after she lost the presidential election to centrist Emmanuel Macron in May.
A month later, the National Front (FN) won just eight seats in a parliamentary poll, well short of the minimum 15 required to form a group that would have greater influence in the chamber.
Both results came despite opinion polls pointing to a strong showing for the anti-EU, anti-immigration party, briefly spooking investors who worried that it would rock France's political establishment and with it the European Union.
Around 40 senior party representatives will be meeting privately on Friday and Saturday (July 22) on the outskirts of Paris, but with infighting spilling into the open and divisions over central policies wide, no final decisions are expected.
The meeting will be followed by a questionnaire sent to National Front members in September and a party congress early next year.
Among the biggest disagreements is the FN's economic policy, and in particular its rejection of the euro, an idea which is unpopular with the majority of the electorate but appeals to the party's core supporters.
"I think that there are still, without a doubt, people in the National Front who didn't take well the turn that Marine Le Pen set out upon in 2011 when she took over from her father. There is a real problem of defining the line between those who say it's about sovereignty and above all leaving Europe and the euro, and then additionally who say neither right nor left .... and then those ... who say we will not manage it alone, we need to open up to the right," political analyst Jean-Yves Camus told Reuters TV.
FN deputy chief Florian Philippot threatened to quit if the party's policy on restoring the franc was dropped, much to the annoyance of some senior colleagues. Yet he is one party official who wants to detoxify the party's image and widen the breadth of subjects and policies they should be known for promoting.
In a France Inter radio interview, the deputy chief said "we must continue to open ourselves up, on employment, on the environment, on health, on Europe, on public services, on secularism, on all the absolutely essential matters," instead of limiting themselves "to few subjects like immigration, Islamism, security".
Le Pen, meanwhile, is holding back from taking a decisive stance.
Despite tensions, there is one issue that unites most of the party's senior leadership, according to some FN officials: changing its name.
It resonates in France and abroad, in part because people associate it with its founder, Marine's estranged father Jean-Marie le Pen, a politician known for his provocative style and convictions for incitement to racial hatred.
It "frightens" people, said Philippot.
At a time when opinion polls show the far-left France Unbowed to be a stronger opponent to Macron than the FN, analysts say the party faces one of its greatest challenges and would need time to rebound.
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