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France’s far-right begin soul-searching talks as Le Pen looks for fresh start

France's far-right National Front (FN) began meeting Friday for a soul-searching exercise after leader Marine Le Pen was routed in May's presidential election.

France's far-right begin soul-searching talks as Le Pen looks for fresh start
Photo: AFP

The two days of discussions at FN headquarters outside Paris are the start of a process that could overhaul the party, including a possible name change, as it seeks a fresh start.

“We will take stock of the elections and look at what worked and what didn't,” Le Pen, 48, told France 2 television ahead of the meeting.

She said the FN would then hold a “wide consultation” with party members, which will probably take place in September.

Le Pen, running on an anti-EU and anti-immigration platform, was beaten by 66 percent to 44 percent by 39-year-old centrist Emmanuel Macron in the May 7 runoff.

Her campaign for that decisive second round was widely criticised, especially her poor performance in a head-to-head TV debate with Macron.

In the parliamentary elections that followed, the FN won just eight seats in the 577-member National Assembly, below its target of 15 seats, as Macron's centrist party obtained a comfortable majority.

One policy position that the FN looks set to dump is its proposal to pull France out of the euro.

In the eyes of many commentators, the pledge became a millstone around Le Pen's neck during the campaign as polls showed most French voters did not support it and the party sought to fudge its stance in the final days before the runoff.

“I think that on this monetary issue we could in fact reverse our stance,” FN secretary general Nicolas Bay told FranceInfo radio.

“I think we need to listen to what the French people said. We did not convince people with this idea.”

But the party's deputy leader Florian Philippot, a strong supporter of the euro withdrawal policy, warned against calling into question the party's entire programme.

He said Le Pen needed to be able to speak to the French electorate “on issues beyond the traditional subjects of the National Front, such as immigration and crime”.

Le Pen has previously said there are “many things to change”, including the name of the party she inherited from her father, FN co-founder Jean-Marie Le Pen.

STRIKES

French unions announce new strike dates in battle against pension reform

After a second day in which more than a million people took to the streets of France to protest over planned pension reform, unions have announced further strike days.

French unions announce new strike dates in battle against pension reform

France’s eight main trades unions federations made a joint announcement on Tuesday night of fresh strike days – Tuesday, February 7th and Saturday, February 11th. 

Tuesday marks the day that the highly controversial pension reform – which includes raising the pension age from 62 to 64 – is presented to the French parliament for the first time.

Both days are likely to see significant disruption, particularly on public transport.

The mass strike on Tuesday saw trains and city public transport services heavily disrupted, while many schools closed as teachers walked out.

Demos held in towns and cities across France saw a huge turnout – more than 1.1 million people, an increase on the turnout on the first day of pension strikes.

READ ALSO ‘We won’t stop until Macron is defeated’ say French pension demonstrators

You can find all the latest news on strikes and service disruptions in our strike section HERE.

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