Supporters of the anti-immigration National Front party are gathering for an important conference in the French city of Nice amid hopes party leader Marine Le Pen can help lead it to real political gains in 2012.
France’s anti-immigration National Front (FN) is calling on supporters and sympathisers to rally around the party’s presidential candidate as it gathers in the southeastern city of Nice on September 10 and 11. Marine Le Pen, who took over as party leader from her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, last year, has seen her popularity slip in recent weeks, but she remains one of the leading candidates in the 2012 race for the Elysée presidential palace.
As France and the rest of the world turn their attention on September 11 to New York’s Ground Zero and the ceremonies marking 10 years since the terrorist attacks in the United States, Le Pen will deliver her keynote speech at the National Front conference. Her address may seem ill-timed, but in fact it suits a party that has always painted itself as a counterforce to France’s political and social establishment.
And while the FN thrived as a party of opposition under her father, observers in France say Marine Le Pen wants her party to gain real political influence in government. “She doesn’t see herself in the opposition for the next 20 years,” said Jean-Yves Camus, a political scientist and expert on France’s far right. “She is part of a generation that is really hungry for power.”