French far-right party approves 'National Rally' name

AFP - [email protected]
French far-right party approves 'National Rally' name
Part leader Marine Le Pen said the new name would mark a new era for the party. Photo: Jean-Philippe Ksiazek / AFP

France's far-right National Front, trying to shake off its reputation for racism that has tinged the party for decades, approved a name change on Friday as it seeks new momentum under leader Marine Le Pen.


Party members backed the scrapping of the National Front name in favour of National Rally at a congress in Lyon, southeast France.
"Homage to the National Front, long live the National Rally," Le Pen said to gathered activists, who voted 81 percent in favour of the new name, with a 53 percent turnout. 
In a nod to the 48 percent of members who opposed a rebranding in a survey last year, the party kept its distinctive flame logo -- which Le Pen's father and party founder Jean-Marie Le Pen borrowed from the neo-fascist Italian Social Movement, one of his main inspirations.
Le Pen said the name change "closes a chapter in the history of our national movement which opened a little more than 45 years ago, but it is better to open another one which, I believe, will be no less glorious".
Referencing Italy's new anti-establishment government, she said people in Europe are "waking up", adding the populist coalition was a "reason for hope". Le Pen is aiming to draw voters who back her conservative, anti-immigrant and eurosceptic agenda but who might have been turned off by the more incendiary views of her father.
Marine had already kept the Le Pen name off her campaign posters last year, and even her niece Marion Marechal, seen as a rising rightwing star, has stopped using the Le Pen name.
Jean-Marie Le Pen was eventually kicked out by his daughter over his repeated anti-Semitic comments, part of her efforts to portray the party as a mainstream and viable governing force.
Yet Marine has struggled to regain her footing since a stinging defeat by Emmanuel Macron last year, despite winning 34 percent of the vote -- a record for her party.
She has faced financing problems as well as criminal charges for tweeting pictures of Islamic State atrocities and over the alleged misuse of European Parliament expense funds.
More recently she has been trying to win over leaders of other rightwing groups ahead of European Parliament elections next year, so far without success.
Even some party lawmakers have abandoned her, including MEP Bernard Monot, who quit Thursday criticising the focus on only "security, the fight against terrorism and immigration".



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