French far-right leader Marine Le Pen loses another ally as niece pulls support

French far-right leader Marine Le Pen is tipped as a likely candidate to reach the second round of the presidential election in April. But she has lost the support of her niece, a darling of the far-right.

Marion Maréchal (left) and Marine Le Pen (right) are both important figures of the French far-right.
Marion Maréchal, left, became the first National Front MP elected to the French parliament since 1997 in 2012. She has refused to lend her support to her aunt, Marine Le Pen, right. (Photo by Joël SAGET / AFP)

Marion Maréchal, a former MP for the far-right Rassemblement national (RN) party, will not support its candidate – her aunt, Marine Le Pen – in the French presidential election. 

In an interview with Le Parisien, Marion Maréchal, who became the youngest MP in French parliamentary history at the age of 22 back in 2012, hinted that she may lend her support to another far-right candidate, Éric Zemmour. 

“It would not just be a question of passing by and saying hello. It would mean returning to politics,” she said on Thursday.

“It is a true life choice to make, a decision that weighs heavily.”

Marion Maréchal stepped down as an MP in 2017 to set up a private university in Lyon specialised in conservative political studies, but remains a popular figure of the French far-right. 

Marine Le Pen has reacted angrily to the news which comes after the high profile defections of former close allies Gilbert Collard and Jérôme Rivière to Zemmour.

“She indicated that she would support the candidate that is best placed. Undoubtedly, I am the better place than Éric Zemmour today as I am tipped to make it to the second-round of the election,” said Le Pen. 

An unnamed  member of Le Pen’s entourage told BFMTV: “Even if she [Marion Maréchal] went for it, it would only increase Zemmour’s support by 1 percent. She represents a microcosm. She has shut herself into an extreme-right ghetto”. 

According to a poll conducted by Harris Interactive from January 21-24, Marine Le Pen is the most likely candidate to face French President Emmanuel Macron in the second round run-off of the presidential election in April, winning 17 percent of the vote in the first-round. 

The next likeliest challenger is the right-wing conservative candidate, Valérie Pécresse, who is currently polling at 15 percent. Éric Zemmour, a far-right media pundit and newcomer to the world of party politics, stands at 14 percent. 

Macron has yet to officially announce his bid for reelection but last week said he would give his decision “in due course”. 

Member comments

  1. It would seem to escape all far right candidates that a vote for any of them is basically a vote for Macron. Unless their supporters show more sense and engage in large-scale tactical voting, it will be more of the same come April.

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Several French parliament candidates stand down after assault allegations

The #MeToo anti-sexual harassment movement is finally reshaping France's sexist political culture, with several politicians running for parliament in upcoming elections forced to stand down over alleged violence against women.

Several French parliament candidates stand down after assault allegations

Several French feminist politicians and journalists launched the “MeToo Politique” movement last November to decry sexism in politics and to demand that men accused of sexual violence be systematically thrown out of office.

Six months later, their bid to shake up politics appears to have taken root, with several prominent candidates for the June legislative elections accused of violence against women throwing in the towel under pressure.

Jerome Peyrat, a candidate for President Emmanuel Macron’s LREM party who was found guilty of violence against his former partner, will no longer stand, party chief Stanislas Guerini said on Wednesday.

Guerini had prompted an outcry earlier in the day by appearing to downplay the issue.

“(Peyrat) is an honest man. I don’t think he is capable of violence against women,” he told FranceInfo radio.

Peyrat, who was an advisor to former presidents Jacques Chirac and Nicolas Sarkozy as well as to Macron, was handed a suspended fine of 3,000 euros ($3,160) in September 2020.

Medical examinations seen by the Mediapart news site noted bruises on the face, neck, arm, shoulder and wrist of Peyrat’s ex-partner, as well as jaw pain and a post-traumatic stress disorder. She was signed off work for two weeks.

“Nominating someone to stand as an MP means giving them weight and a platform,” said local Paris politician Alice Coffin. She is a founding member of the Observatory of Sexist and Sexual Violence in Politics, created in November when “MeToo Politique” was launched.

“We cannot celebrate abusers,” she told AFP.

Taha Bouhafs, who was running for MP on a hard-left ticket with the France Unbowed movement (LFI), also stepped down last week after several women came forward to LFI and accused him of sexual assault.

Candidates dropping out is a sign things are changing, said Fiona Texeire, a staffer at the Paris City Hall and founding member of the Observatory.

“(But) the true victory will be when parties do the work internally and don’t nominate people accused of sexist or sexual violence,” she added.

Boys’ club

French politics has long been perceived as a boys’ club.

French women did not win the right to vote until 1944, several decades after their British, Dutch and American counterparts.

The country has never had a female president and it was not until this week that Macron named the second-ever female prime minister, Elisabeth Borne.

But a series of high-profile sexual violence cases involving prominent politicians have shaken the political sphere.

In 2011, when powerful Socialist politician Dominique Strauss-Kahn was arrested in New York on charges of trying to rape a hotel maid, the French political class closed ranks behind him.

Such a stance is much more unlikely in the aftermath of #MeToo, experts say.

In recent years, prominent political figures such as Green politician Denis Baupin and former environment minister Nicolas Hulot have been forced to retire from public life following accusations of sexual harassment or abuse.

Hulot withdrew from public life in November last year after a documentary aired on prime-time television featuring several women claiming he sexually abused them, including a woman who says he raped her when she was a minor.

Macron’s decision in 2020 to appoint Gerald Darmanin as interior minister — even though he was accused of rape, sexual harassment and abuse of power — also drew heavy criticism, even sparking demonstrations.

However Darmanin has denied any wrongdoing and prosecutors in January asked for the case to be dropped.

‘By nature sexist’ 

“The mediatisation of sexist and sexual violences has definitely evolved in favour of women these past years,” said Merabha Benchikh, a sociologist from Strasbourg University in eastern France.

But #MeToo has had less effect in France than in Britain and the United States, Benchikh added. She put this down to a culture of seduction in France she says often amounts to harassment.   

Shortly after the #MeToo movement began, around 100 French women writers, performers and academics including screen icon Catherine Deneuve wrote an open letter defending the “right to bother” women.

“We were the only country to have an opinion column signed by women against #MeToo,” said Coffin.

Three candidates for the presidential election in April — Eric Zemmour, Jean Lassalle and Francois Asselineau — had been accused of sexual abuse or harassment.

Asselineau denied the accusations. Zemmour refused to speak about the incidents, which he says are part of his private life, while Lassalle apologised if he “caused offence”.

“The French political field — by nature androcentric and sexist — has long excluded women, including in their attempts to speak out,” said Benchikh.

“Women’s voices are only beginning to free themselves from these relationships of domination,” she added.