• France edition
 
France's National Front opens candidate college
Far right National Front leader Marine Le Pen visits "Le Fer à Cheval" savon de Marseille (Marseille's soap) factory in February . Photo: Anne-Christine Poujalat

France's National Front opens candidate college

Published: 11 Feb 2013 13:39 GMT+01:00
Updated: 11 Feb 2013 13:39 GMT+01:00

Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right, anti-immigration party, who garnered 18 percent of the vote in last May's presidential elections, is turning her attention away from the Elysée palace and towards local battlegrounds across the country.

Her secret weapon for the 2014 local elections is the ‘Campus Bleu Marine’, which was unveiled last month at Nanterres, a suburb to the west of Paris.

The controversial leader, who campaigned to cut immigration by 90 percent and increase sovereignty for France,  is hoping success at a local level will help boost the party's influence and credibility in French politics.

In an open letter to party members, Le Pen called Campus Bleu Marine ‘the most important project for the future of the National Front.’

The campus opened its doors for the first "students" at the weekend, with seminars to be held each weekend until the summer. Party chiefs are hoping around 600 potential National Front candidates will have graduated by June.

The syllabus for Campus Bleu Marine touches on every aspect of modern political campaigning. According to the school’s director, Frédéric Gourier, the ‘students’ are learning public relations, communication, media training, campaign finance, legal perspectives, strategy and how to put together a ballot list.

“Go out and have a physical presence on the ground, and be active, even in small villages,” Michel Guiniot, a National Front manager told students, according to Europe 1 radio.

“Because that’s how you’re going to put together your list – by knocking on doors,” he said.

The seminars have reportedly attracted a diverse group of would-be candidates in recent weeks who will be able to attend lectures on topics such as "The National Front's strategy in towns with less than 9,000 inhabitants".

According to a report in French daily Le Parisien on Monday, one recent class featured participants aged between 19 and 71 years, including a law student and a middle-aged nursery-school teacher, as well as a 62-year-old former Socialist Party activist.

‘All I know is that I know nothing’

For the National Front’s newest recruits, many of whom are new to political activism, it all seems a lot to take in.

A sign at the door of the classroom contains Socrates’ famous maxim, “All I know is that I know nothing.” It’s a sentiment shared by 52-year-old Dominique Chalard.

“I have it all to learn, this is my first campaign,” she told Le Parisien. The assistant nursery school teacher is a former socialist, whose journey to Campus Bleu Marine began two years ago, when she joined a group of disaffected citizens in her hometown of Lempdes in central France.

Although the National Front has enjoyed significant levels of support among the French people at times, French election models mean that its number of elected representatives has never matched its level of popularity.

The party has only two National Assembly members (from a total of 577 seats), despite Le Pen's strong personal showing in the presidential elections.

A sign of the National Front's growing influence in France could be seen in a recent poll which indicated that one-third of French people agree with the party's ideas.

Indeed, 35 percent now believe that the party, founded by Jean-Marie Le Pen in 1972, “has the ability to participate in government”.

In 2002, Jean-Marie Le Pen qualified for the second round of the presidential election. French voters – horrified by the National Front policies of deporting non-Europeans, reintroducing the death penalty, and statements from Le Pen that appeared to minimize the Holocaust – overwhelmingly re-elected centre-right president Jacques Chirac by a record 82 to 18 percent.

Since taking over from her father as party leader in 2011, however, Marine Le Pen has attempted to project a friendlier, more moderate and less xenophobic public image for the National Front, a campaign the French media has taken to calling ‘de-diabolisation’ or ‘taking the devil out.’

Dan MacGuill (dan.macguill@thelocal.com)

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Paying ransoms
France 'world’s top payer' of ransoms for hostages
Did France pay a ransom to free four hostages who spent three years in captivity. Photo: Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP

France 'world’s top payer' of ransoms for hostages

France has paid out €58 million to free hostages since 2008, putting it top of the world rankings for ransom payments, according to a media report. Although the French government has angrily denied the claims, critics says the policy is creating a lucrative hostage industry. READ  

Tired French burglar falls asleep during break-in
A sleeping French burglar woke up to the police. Photo: Quinn.anya/Flickr

Tired French burglar falls asleep during break-in

A suspected burglar took a nap while robbing a house in France this week and when he woke up the police were waiting for him. It’s just the latest case of criminals choosing an inopportune time to nod off. READ  

Nudity on the beaches of France: Dos and don'ts
Here's what you need to know about getting naked on French beaches. Photo: Fred Dufour/AFP

Nudity on the beaches of France: Dos and don'ts

France is world famous for its topless and nudist beaches, even if French ladies are increasingly keeping their swim suits on. Here’s what you need to know about dropping your top (or bottoms) on French beaches. READ  

Peeing man drowns after being pushed into Seine
Police are looking for whoever pushed a man from behind into the River Seine, leading to him drowning. Photo: Dany13/Flickr

Peeing man drowns after being pushed into Seine

A man drowned in the River Seine early on Wednesday in Paris after he was pushed into the water from behind while he was peeing, French media reported. Police aren’t sure if it was a prank gone wrong or a violent reprisal. READ  

France pulls French and British out of Libya
Libyan security services and civilians gather across the street after a car bomb attack on the French embassy in Tripoli, Libya on April 23rd, 2013. Photo: Mahmud Turkia/AFP

France pulls French and British out of Libya

The French government announced on Wednesday that it had pulled around 50 French and British nationals out of Libya. Paris's decision to evacuate its nationals comes amid a rise in violence in the strife-torn North African country. READ  

'Museum shooter' faces terrorism murder charge
Terror-related murder charges have been filed against a Frenchman for the Belgian museum killings. Photo: AFP

'Museum shooter' faces terrorism murder charge

Prosecutors have charged a Frenchman with "murder in a terrorist context" for the attack on a Jewish museum in Belgium that left four people dead. The suspect spent a year fighting alongside Islamist militants in Syria before returning to Europe. READ  

French sites pillaged by wannabe archaeologist
A Frenchman is in a big trouble for using his metal detector to 'pillage' archaeological sites. Photo: Jesshg/Flickr

French sites pillaged by wannabe archaeologist

A wannabe archaeologist is on trial in France accused of looting some of the country’s best historical sites after being caught with thousands of ancient artifacts. Experts say France is facing an epidemic of archaeological pillaging. READ  

French celebrate freedom from hungry tax man
French workers are now free from the tax man until the end of the year, according to an economic study. Photo: AFP

French celebrate freedom from hungry tax man

French workers can now celebrate being free from the burden of the tax man because for the rest of the year, they won’t pay another cent in taxes, an economic study claims. The Belgians however still have a bit of work to do. READ  

Gaza crisis
Jewish groups call for Pro-Israel march in Paris
Up to 6,000 pro-Israel protesters march through Marseille. Paris will see its own pro-Israel march take place on Thursday. Photo: Boris Horvat/AFP.

Jewish groups call for Pro-Israel march in Paris

France’s main Jewish organisation has appealed to all the “friends of Israel” to turn out for a rally outside the Israeli embassy in Paris on Thursday. It comes as Muslim groups call for a right-wing Jewish militant organisation to be banned in France. READ  

Air France strike set to hit holidaymakers
Travellers set for disruption after Air France staff called a strike for Saturday. Photo:Shutterstock

Air France strike set to hit holidaymakers

Air France flights to and from France are set to be severely disrupted on Saturday after several unions called on workers to go on strike. The industrial action could cause misery for many holidaymakers. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Culture
Why are the days of going topless in France coming to an end?
Travel
Reckless or adventurous? US dad takes his two children up Mont Blanc
National
From manure to money: Ten bizarre facts about the French Parliament
Culture
Tourists picnic with rats in Louvre gardens
International
Is France really Europe's biggest public spenders?
National
Could your job in France soon be done by a robot?
National
Why you should think twice about feeding stray cats in France
National
And the new redrawn map of France will look like...?
Politics
Is French President François Hollande about to tie the knot?
International
Want a long-term visa? You may soon have to take a French test
International
Votes for foreigners: 'France would be giving up its sovereignty'
National
VIDEO: Stuntman jumps onto a moving Paris metro... and survives
Gallery
Forget 'faire l'amour', here's 15 top French expressions for making love
National
Report - 'Anti-Semitic' riots in France: 'We may leave for Israel'
National
Paris Plages: Here's 10 reasons to head down to the city beach
International
'Mont Blanc is like Disneyland. It's time to end the free-for-all'
Travel
Fancy climbing Mont Blanc? Here's 10 reasons to think twice about it
Gallery
Looking for a weird museum in Paris? Here's 10 that are worth a visit
National
Clear your head: Eight tips for buying wine in a French supermarket
National
'Don't blame the labour market for France's unemployment woes!'
National
Job applicants in France: Be prepared to send in an anonymous CV
Sport
'Bouligans' to booze bans: Ten things you need to know about pétanque
Gallery
Driving in France: How to stay out of trouble on the roads
Sponsored Article
CurrencyFair: Why it pays when making overseas transfers
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se