Marion Maréchal-Le Pen poised to make far-right dynasty proud
The 22-year-old niece of Marine Le Pen is through to the next round in France’s parliamentary elections
MARION Maréchal-Le Pen, the 22-year-old niece of National Front leader Marine Le Pen and the granddaughter of the former far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen, has won the first round in elections that could see her take a seat in the French parliament.
Standing in Carpentras, southern France, Maréchal-Le Pen took 34.6 per cent of the vote and looks likely to win in the final round next Sunday. She was one of 25 far-right candidates to make it through to the second round across the country - a record, according to Le Parisien.
Maréchal-Le Pen finished 12 points ahead of the Socialist candidate Catherine Arkilovitch and four points ahead of the incumbent, the centre-right UMP candidate Jean-Michel Ferrand.
Maréchal-Le Pen, a student studying to be a lawyer, has almost no political experience beyond growing up in France’s most famous far-right family. However, she is young, blonde and photogenic, and has attracted camera crews and huge media interest as she runs to be potentially the youngest French MP since the French revolutionary Louis Antoine de Saint-Just, in 1791.
Opponents have claimed that Maréchal-Le Pen has been parachuted into a constituency with which she has no links and is running to please her relatives. Her father, Samuel Maréchal, once ran the National Front’s youth movement; her mother Yann is Jean-Marie’s daughter.
Carpentras, a commune in the Vaucluse department, is a far-right stronghold. An agricultural area once known as the fruit basket of France, farming has since died off and unemployment has risen in recent years.
Maréchal-Le Pen's campaign topics match those of her aunt: cutting immigration, crime and insecurity, promising protectionism over globalisation and most of all guarding the French "identity" and "way of life".
She says immigration should be limited drastically as France "can't assimilate our immigrant population and finance their lifestyle and identity demands as well". With the poverty and death of agriculture, she warns that Carpentras "is what France could look like in ten years".
Exit polls gave the National Front between 13 and 14 per cent in the first round of the legislative vote yesterday, far above the four per cent it achieved in the last parliamentary election in 2007.
Under France's first-past-the-post system, that would at best give it only three parliamentary seats and possibly none at all, although the party will be able to field candidates in dozens of constituencies in next Sunday's second-round vote.
President Francois Hollande's Socialists and their allies appear poised to take control of parliament, according to exit polls from the first round, beating the UMP of former president Nicolas Sarkozy with 40 per cent of the vote to 35.
"I'm not my grandfather's marionette, contrary to what some say," Maréchal-Le Pen told Le Monde. "I"ve been a National Front member since I was 17, and active supporter for a long time. I have a certain legitimacy to be a candidate even if it’s true that seeking a legislative seat is new, and a huge responsibility."