Le Pen vows to revamp party after huge loss

Ms Marine Le Pen is still the National Front's undisputed leader, said party vice-president Florian Philippot.
Ms Marine Le Pen is still the National Front's undisputed leader, said party vice-president Florian Philippot.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

PARIS • Ms Marine Le Pen has put on a brave face following her crushing defeat to Mr Emmanuel Macron in the presidential election, pledging to overhaul her far-right party and turn it into the main opposition to France's new centrist leader.

Analysts said she looked set to maintain her grip on the National Front, despite criticism from some party members, including her own relatives, over her campaign.

Despite losing to Mr Macron - securing just around 33.9 per cent of the vote compared with his 66.1 per cent - Ms Le Pen did nearly twice as well as her father did when he reached the second round of the election in 2002, though she fell short of the 40 per cent party officials had said would be a success.

"French people have chosen the continuity candidate," a visibly disappointed Ms Le Pen said in a brief concession address.

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She said she would seek to rename her National Front party, a measure of the extent to which her defeat rattled supporters who just weeks ago harboured hopes of capturing the Elysee Palace.

The anti-European Union, anti-immigration party will now focus on next month's parliamentary elections, although Ms Le Pen recognised that the party needs far-reaching change. "I will propose starting this deep transformation of our movement in order to make a new political force," she said. It was unclear at this stage what impact the overhaul would have on policy.

Meanwhile, Ms Le Pen's father redoubled his criticism of his daughter late on Sunday. In an interview with RTL television, Mr Jean-Marie Le Pen said her euro policy derailed her campaign and she should have focused on immigration and security instead. "We need to talk to France about its real problems," he said.

But National Front vice-president Florian Philippot said Ms Le Pen remains the "uncontested" leader of the party even after her heavy defeat. "She drove us to the best result we've ever had, it's not a failure for her," he said on Europe1 radio. "I'm sure we made errors, everyone makes errors and we will reflect on how we can do better."

Although the National Front can count on a loyal base, it has only two seats in the current Lower House of Parliament, and a poll last week predicted the party would win only around 15 to 25 seats in next month's elections.

REUTERS, BLOOMBERG, WASHINGTON POST

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 09, 2017, with the headline 'Le Pen vows to revamp party after huge loss'. Print Edition | Subscribe