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POLITICS

French elections: 5 things you didn’t know about Marine Le Pen

Her family has dominated France's far right politics for decades and she is now undertaking her third bid for the French presidency - but here's five things you may not know about Marine Le Pen.

French elections: 5 things you didn't know about Marine Le Pen
Marine Le Pen. Photo: Julien De Rosa/AFP

1 She’s part of the smart set – Le Pen likes to pitch herself as an ‘outsider’ and her party does well in France’s rust belt of poverty-stricken former industrial areas, but in fact she was born in the very wealthy Paris suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine, which is twinned with the English royal town of Windsor. 

Her presidential rival Valérie Pécresse – sometimes branded Princess Valérie in French media – was born in the same suburb one year earlier.

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2 She has a turbulent family – Famously, it was her father Jean-Marie Le Pen who founded the Front National, which Marine took over leadership of in 2012 and renamed Rassemblement National (national rally) in 2018. She later barred her father from the party over his anti-semitic remarks and the pair were estranged for some years.

She helped to raise her niece Marion, who followed her into politics but has this year declared that she will not support RN and is instead backing Marine’s extreme-right rival Eric Zemmour. Reacting to the news on TV, Marine appeared close to tears as she described her niece’s act as ‘brutal’.

3 She’s a qualified lawyer – She has advanced studies in criminal law and six years of legal practice under her belt.

Maybe it’s her legal training that has helped her to avoid the multiple convictions for hate speech of both her father and her rival Zemmour, although she has been before the courts and acquitted several times, particularly for her remarks concerning Islam. 

4 She’s actually pretty keen on foreigners – At least when it comes to campaign funding.

Her 2022 bid is largely funded by loans from Hungarian banks while for the 2017 campaign Rassemblement National was in receipt of loans from Russian lenders. And talking of funding, she was placed under investigation for improper use of EU funds, which prosecutors say were actually used to finance party work. She was ordered to pay back nearly €300,000.    

5 She survived bomb attack – When she was eight, her home was targeted by a bomb intended for her father, who was already heavily involved in far right politics.

Marine, her two sisters and their parents escaped unharmed, although the bomb ripped through the stairwell of the family home. 

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POLITICS

Macron rules out ‘national unity government’ for France

French president Emmanuel Macron has promised a new style of government based on 'listening and respect' - but did not announce an alliance with any other parties that would give him a majority in parliament.

Macron rules out 'national unity government' for France

Macron has been holding meetings with all other party leaders in an attempt to break the deadlock in parliament after his group lost its majority in Sunday’s elections, but in a live TV address to the nation he did not announce an alliance.

Instead he said that a new style of government was called for, saying: “The responsibility of the presidential majority is therefore to expand, either by building a coalition contract or by building majorities text by text.”

He rejected the idea of forming a “government of national unity” with all parties, saying that the present situation does not justify it.

READ ALSO Can Macron dissolve the French parliament?

But he said that opposition groups have signalled that: “They are available to advance on major topics” such as the cost of living, jobs, energy, climate and health.”

He said: “We must learn how to govern differently, by dialogue, respect, and listening

“This must mean making agreements, through dialogue, respect, and hard work. The country has made its desire for change clear.”  

Speaking for just eight minutes in the gardens of the Elysée, Macron added: “I cannot ignore the fractures and strong divisions that traverse our country.”   

He said urgent draft laws, especially to alleviate the impact of inflation and rising energy prices, would be submitted to parliament over the summer.

Macron called on the opposition parties to “clarify in all transparency, in the coming days, how far they are willing to go” in their support of such measures, which he said would not be financed by higher taxes.

He added that he himself had been re-elected in April on a platform of “ambitious reform” which he expected to carry out.

The parliamentary impasse should not lead to “stagnation”, Macron said, but to “dialogue and the willingness to listen to each other”.

Macron’s centrist group Ensemble (Together) ended Sunday’s elections as the largest group in parliament – but with 245 seats they are 44 short of an absolute majority.

The leftist coalition Nupes – an electoral alliance of the hard-left La France Insoumise, the centre-left Parti Socialiste, the Greens and the Communists – got a total of 131.

Meanwhile Marine Le Pen’s far-right Rassemblement National got 89 seats and the centre-right Les Républicains got 61 seats. 

With deadlock in parliament, Macron has been holding meetings over the last two days with the party leaders in the attempt to create an alliance that will allow him to pass legislation over the next five years.

Reacting to Macron’s speech, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, leader of the leftist alliance which is the second largest group in parliament, said: “He was elected because most French people did not want the extreme right – the French people have rejected the president’s proposals.

“Nothing can change the choice of the French people.”

Macron’s position as president is not directly threatened by the lack of a majority, but it will mean that passing any legislation – which must be agreed by parliament – will be very difficult.

While negotiations between all parties will continue, Macron himself heads to Brussels on Thursday for an EU summit.

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