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On the sidelines of the dovish French politics, Marine Le Pen is trying to rebrand

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LA TRINITÉ-SUR-MER, France – It was the place of a straightforward origin story, or so it seemed. Marine Le Pen, the far-right leader who aims to become the next president of France, has come to launch her latest campaign in the seaside resort where her controversial father was once. Advertise His attempt to head from the family home.

But the recent trip to the family base at La Trinité-sur-Mer in western France, where Mrs. Le Pen snapped selfies with fans, chatted with Oystermin and took TV journalists on boat trips, was an important part of the rebranding effort toward respectability.

Florent de Quercuson drove the canoe, a prominent businessman who, after decades of supporting center-right candidates, was turning into Mrs. Le Pen. The National Assembly. By embracing Mr. de Kerson, a former senior executive at the telecom giant Alcatel, Ms. Le Pen has held onto the corporate personality that can help convince voters that her party was more than just a deceptive family business. And perhaps even assuage doubts about her competency to move to the Elysee Palace.

“The National Rally, the former National Front, has transformed from a protest movement into an opposition movement, and it is now a governmental movement,” said Ms. Le Pen.

A year before the upcoming presidential elections in France, Mrs. Le Pen, 52, is expected to be President Emmanuel Macron’s main contender in the 2017 re-election. Over the past four years, Ms. Le Pen has been trying to rebuild her credibility after a Bad campaign It was marred by a incoherent message and punctuated by a disastrous debate against Mr. Macron.

It changed its economic message, eliminating the party’s opposition to the euro and the European Union, a position which alienated the conservative movement. She now talks about forming a national unity government by selecting the most competent and experienced individuals, including figures from the left, that would add appeal to a party whose vice president, Jordan Bardella, is only 25 years old.

Even as she adheres to the party’s cruel anti-immigration vision, Mrs. Le Pen redoubled her efforts to “Not demonized Her party, which has long been associated with anti-Semitism, xenophobia, Holocaust denial and colonial nostalgia for Jean-Marie Le Pen, her father and founder of the party.

Part of that was an attempt to humanize it. A series of recent news reports have revealed her love for cats so much that she has become Certified breederSpecializes in Bengalis and Somalis. The Pictures Her photo with their beloved felines was visual evidence that the party no longer belonged to her father, known for his fondness for threatening Dobermans.

Recent polls show Ms. Le Pen and Mr. Macron are competing in the first round of next year’s election, with Le Pen trailing just a few percentage points in the second round.

Nicholas Leiburg, a professor of political science, said Mrs. Le Pen, who is running for president for the third time, struggled to recover from her shaky performance in 2017. While she presented a recent photo when she took over the party leadership from her father, Mr Leiburg said it was 10 years ago. For years, she was dealing with the anxieties raging around in French society without offering a positive vision for the future.

“It could do very well in the first round, maybe it will come first, and then lose in the second round,” said Mr. Leiburg, adding that its expected strong performance is not due to “charisma” more than pessimism. in France. “It is more about the French fear of degradation.”

The government’s poor handling of the coronavirus pandemic has undermined confidence in the country and deepened its sense of it General national declineMr. Leiburg said.

Mr Macron has also been involved in a series of crises, including Yellow Sweater Movement. Attacks In the past months Fears of terrorism have also increased and hastened the case of Mr. Macron Turn right To fend off Mrs. Le Pen.

Ms. Le Pen said in an hour-long interview inside her office at the National Assembly in Paris, where copies of “the philosopher cat,” an illustrated volume of fictional sayings bearing the theme of cats, and a blue file with “immigration” and “security” written on her desk.

For Ms. Le Pen, Mr. Macron was a candidate for globalization, and his presidency was one of “chaos, fragmentation and division in French society”.

“I am the candidate to restore state power,” said Ms. Le Pen, adding that she would protect the national interests of France.

It has abandoned part of its populist economic agenda, especially its proposal to ditch the euro. She said she now believes that the stability provided by the single currency outweighs the negatives.

It is believed that keeping the coin would help Ms. Le Pen prosecute traditional conservatives, the same group Mr. Macron targeted. “It reassured people who were worried about a situation that made them believe it might have consequences for their assets,” she said.

Ms Le Pen argued her party gained more credibility in the Local governments Controlled by her party, especially in the deprived regions of northern and southern France.

At La Trinité-sur-Mer, she introduced Mr de Kersauson, the former CEO of Alcatel, as her party president in the regional elections next month. Having more center-right defectors – who are financially better off than the traditional supporters of the National Rally, but who also feel unstable due to the social changes sweeping through France – is one of the keys to victory next year.

“Marin is a woman of her age, who suffers from the problems of her time, and has answers in her age,” said Mr. de Quercuson in an interview.

Mr de Kersonsson, who is positioning himself in the middle politically right, He said he would never have supported the National Rally when it was led by Mrs. Le Pen’s father. But he said he slipped into Mrs. Le Pen’s party because he was the first to properly “diagnose” France’s problems, citing immigration and security.

In the interview, Mrs. Le Pen’s voice rose when she spoke of immigration – the red meat issue that underpinned the rise of her party, under the rule of a father and daughter. She said government policies were too lenient and blamed immigration for the fragmentation of French society and the creation of Islamism and terrorism.

“We cannot solve the problem of insecurity if we do not acknowledge the idea that migration is chaotic, and that it is the engine of insecurity in our country,” she said. “When a plumber comes to fix a leak, the first thing they do is shut off the water.”

Ms. Le Pen wants to drastically reduce immigration and deport those in France illegally. She said that obtaining French citizenship should be more difficult and dependent on respecting French “customs” and “laws”.

“It’s also about defending the French way of life,” she added. “It’s about the Americans are not French, and the French are not Italians. We all have our own culture, all of our identity.”

She also said that she has no problems with Islam, but has vowed to suppress Islamism, or any attempt to replace French republican values ​​with religious laws.

But her critics see a problem in how she defines Islamism. For Ms. Le Pen, the Islamic headscarf is essentially an expression of political Islam and should be prohibited in public.

“In France, we don’t wear a headscarf,” said Ms. Le Pen. “France, Brigitte Bardot in swimsuit, not the women in the niqab.”

In La Trinité-sur-Mer, Mrs. Le Pen’s message on immigration and security seemed to resonate even among those who still questioned her economic policies and her willingness to rule.

Guilin and Michel Andre, a retired couple who had come to see Mrs. Le Pen launch her campaign, said they felt trapped in a changed France.

“We are in France, after all, and we have the right to do what we want,” said Ms. André. “We reduced it to being careful, and not talking too much.”

But Mr Leiburg, a professor of political science, said Ms Le Pen needs to expand her appeal.

In the interview, Ms. Le Pen described herself as “top secret,” and said she wanted to talk more about herself before the election. “I think a lot of people feel that they have known me for a long time, but they don’t know me very well,” she said. “Maybe they think they know me because they got to know me through my father.”

She said she reconciled with her 93-year-old father, who expelled him from the party in 2015 for making anti-Semitic remarks. The year before, she said she left the family home near Paris after it was one of her father’s dogs – a rescue, not a Doberman, as some French media did at first mentioned – She killed one of her cats.

Mrs. Le Pen said the dog was cute, as was her father Dobermans. “We shouldn’t get caught up in cartoons,” she said. “Dobermans have a wicked image, but they are actually very cute dogs.”

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