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France's Le Pen set to field new name for far-right party

11 March 2018

While Le Pen is facing no immediate threat of overthrow - she is expected to be re-elected unopposed as party president - her father, Jean-Marie, who was thrown out of the FN for racist remarks, continues to snipe from the sidelines.

Former White House strategist Steve Bannon re-energized France's struggling far-right National Front party Saturday by speaking at a party congress and telling Marine Le Pen's nationalist supporters: "History is on our side".

His arrival in Paris comes as the far-right giant of French politics is in a slump.

"Welcome to Steve Bannon who will address the National Front tomorrow at our congress and will meet Marine Le Pen".

Steve Bannon delivers a speech during the French far-right Front National (FN) party annual congress, March 10, 2018 in Lille, France. The former Goldman Sachs investment banker, who was ousted from the White House previous year and stepped down as chairman of Breitbart News Network in January, has visited Switzerland - he gave his first European speech in Zurich earlier in the week - and Italy, where voters last Sunday elected a parliament dominated by anti-immigrant populists.

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In the meantime, she emphasized that the political views of the National Front would not change; it will stand for "the defense of identity, French culture, security, the fight against immigration, and the defense of a social model, of national solidarity and especially of national sovereignty".

Since taking over the National Front's presidency in 2011, Le Pen has worked to change the party's image, known for its racism and anti-Semitism.

All eyes instantly turned to her glamorous niece, 28-year-old former MP Marion Marechal-Le Pen.

"We're at a turning point ... don't bury us", she said in an interview with France's Le Figaro newspaper published Friday.

Marechal-Le Pen, a Catholic hardliner and darling of the FN old guard withdrew from politics previous year.

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A new name, a new leadership structure and new bylaws are being unveiled at the two-day congress in Lille with the hope the anti-immigration party can become relevant again. Jean-Marie Le Pen also is to be scratched from the party's books along with his title of honorary president-for-life.

At the conference in Lille, in the FN's northern heartlands, Le Pen will urge the party to move away from the mindset of being a permanent opposition, ground it has occupied since it was founded, to broadening its appeal with a view to governing.

"She is not simply a rising star on the right in France".

This week Le Pen seemed heartened by the strong gains made by the allied anti-immigrant League party in Italy's general election, hailing it as a "new stage in the awakening of the people".

An election next year for members of the European Union's lawmaking arm will be the National Front's first chance to test its rebranding strategy.

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France's Le Pen set to field new name for far-right party