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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

Prosecutors: No new rape inquiry for France’s disabilities minister

France's disabilities minister will not face a new inquiry "as things stand" over a rape allegation that surfaced just after his nomination by President Emmanuel Macron last week, prosecutors have said, citing the anonymity of the alleged victim.

Prosecutors: No new rape inquiry for France's disabilities minister

Damien Abad has faced growing pressure to resign after the news website Mediapart reported the assault claims by two women dating from over a decade ago, which he has denied.

One of the women, identified only by her first name, Margaux, filed a rape complaint in 2017 that was later dismissed by prosecutors.

The other woman, known only as Chloe, told Mediapart that in 2010 she had blacked out after accepting a glass of champagne from Abad at a bar in Paris, and woke up in her underwear in pain with him in a hotel room. She believes she may have been drugged.

She did not file an official complaint, but the Paris prosecutors’ office said it was looking into the case after being informed by the Observatory of Sexist and Sexual Violence in Politics, a group formed by members of France’s MeToo movement.

“As things stand, the Paris prosecutors’ office is not following up on the letter” from the observatory, it said, citing “the inability to identify the victim of the alleged acts and therefore the impossibility of proceeding to a hearing.”

In cases of sexual assault against adults, Paris prosecutors can open an inquiry only if an official complaint is made, meaning the victim must give their identity.

Abad has rejected the calls to resign in order to ensure the new government’s “exemplarity,” saying that he is innocent and that his own condition of arthrogryposis, which limits the movement of his joints, means sexual relations can occur only with the help of a partner.

The appointment of Abad as minister for solidarities and people with disabilities in a reshuffle last Friday was seen as a major coup for Macron, as the 42-year-old had defected from the right-wing opposition.

The new prime minister, Elisabeth Borne, said she was unaware of the allegations before Abad’s nomination, but insisted that “If there is new information, if a new complaint is filed, we will draw all the consequences.”

The claims could loom large over parliamentary elections next month, when Macron is hoping to secure a solid majority for his reformist agenda. Abad will be standing for re-election in the Ain department north of Lyon.

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