Berliner Tageblatt - France snap vote sparks far-right family reunion

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France snap vote sparks far-right family reunion
France snap vote sparks far-right family reunion / Photo: © AFP

France snap vote sparks far-right family reunion

France's snap elections have sparked reconciliation within the country's most prominent far-right family, the latest episode in the saga of the tempestuous Le Pens.

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After marching to her own political drum for several years, Marion Marechal -- whose mother is a Le Pen -- this week returned to the family's fold.

In the run-up to the June 30 polls, she has broken with allies to throw her support back behind the far-right National Rally (RN) party of her aunt, three-time presidential candidate Marine Le Pen.

Her shift comes after President Emmanuel Macron called the parliamentary vote, with a second round on July 7, following the RN scoring double what his centrist alliance did in European elections on Sunday.

Macron's surprise move has sent French political parties scrambling to form alliances on either side of the spectrum.

Marechal, 34, was once a lawmaker in her aunt's party. But in 2022 she joined the extreme-right Reconquest party led by Eric Zemmour, last week winning it a seat in the European Parliament.

After Macron called the snap poll, she immediately reached out to form an alliance between it and the RN.

- 'I brought her up' -

She met her 55-year-old aunt and Le Pen's lieutenant, the RN's 28-year-old chief Jordan Bardella, on Monday.

By Wednesday, she was calling on voters in all districts to back joint candidates of an RN-led coalition, causing Reconquest leader Zemmour to kick her out.

"She has rejoined her family's camp. She's in favour of family reunification," the anti-immigration firebrand quipped.

Marechal has said she is not rejoining the RN -- formerly called the National Front (FN) -- co-founded by her grandfather Jean-Marie Le Pen in the 1970s.

But her aunt Marine has hailed her "courage", in what seems to be a form of absolution for having strayed.

A year and a half earlier, Marine Le Pen had described Marechal's apparent move to support Zemmour -- not her -- in the 2022 presidential elections as "brutal".

"I brought her up with my sister for the first years of her life," she told the BFMTV broadcaster.

- Family affair -

For Jean-Marie Le Pen, now 95, politics has long been a family affair.

From the mid-1980s, he appeared to be setting up his eldest daughter Marie-Caroline Le Pen as his heir, with her running in several local elections.

On an FN poster in 1992, Jean-Marie posed with three-year-old Marion Marechal in his arms.

The FN leader once even suggested his second wife, Jany Le Pen, run instead of him in European elections in 1999 -- though she eventually said no.

But very public feuds -- political, private or both -- are also a family speciality.

Jean-Marie Le Pen's first wife Pierrette -- Marine's mother -- sneaked out of the family home in the late 1980s only to appear several weeks later on the front cover of Playboy magazine.

Marie-Caroline and her husband Philippe Olivier then joined a failed coup plot against her father, prompting him to choose her little sister Marine to succeed him instead.

After becoming party leader in 2011, Marine Le Pen stripped her own father of the title of honorary chairman.

Marechal, the daughter of middle sister Yann, also stood up to her grandfather in 2017 when she refused to again run in parliamentary elections, before then jumping ship to support Zemmour in 2022.

- 'Adopted son' -

But the Le Pens have always made sure there were equally public happy endings to these episodes -- often after reconciliation at family events like birthdays, christenings or Christmas.

Pierrette returned 15 years later to the family home in the French capital's wealthy western suburbs.

Marie-Caroline today helps in her little sister's election campaigns, while her husband is one of her advisers.

If the RN wins the snap elections, it will be Bardella -- not Le Pen -- who will be put forward as prime minister.

But even he has a tie to the family.

Before replacing Le Pen as party president aged just 27, he had dated Marie-Caroline's daughter though today they are separated.

A person close to Bardella, asking to remain anonymous, said Le Pen -- who has three children of her own -- considers him like an "adopted son".

K.Thomson--BTB