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France's National Front: Will Marine Le Pen take the reins?

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An often-vicious party fight is under way between Ms. Le Pen and Bruno Gollnisch, Mr. Le Pen's stalwart right-hand man. The battle is over the face and direction of the far right, whose influence here has always outweighed its numbers.

Ms. Le Pen, tall, blond, and articulate, wants to move the Front away from the splendid isolation of its 5 to 12 percent vote and appeal to a mainstream that has also moved right. She has rebuffed her dad's anti-Semitism and speaks inclusively of gays and feminists – while nourishing an anti-immigrant, antiburqa, anti-Islam line that plays to a silent majority.

Mr. Gollnisch, serious, gray-haired, a professor and ultranationalist who speaks Japanese and Malay and is deeply loyal to Mr. Le Pen, wants the party to remain a haven for fellow travelers. His anti-Semitism is intact; a 2004 speech saying Holocaust facts are a "dispute of history" landed him in court.

Most French think the daughter, with her populist touch, will win. But in party ranks, Gollnisch is seen as a standard-bearer who put in time and hard work. He told Le Figaro newspaper: "I want … to defend the French identity, which appears more threatened than ever."

"She's a pure product of her father, and she's got the leader's name. That has weight," says Arun Kapil of the American University in Paris. "But to the card-carrying party member, Gollnisch has legitimacy. He goes way back to the '70s."

He adds, "If Marine wins, the has a chance to break out … if Gollnisch wins, they retreat to 2 percent."

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