French populist Marine Le Pen has announced she will be stepping down as leader of the National Rally to focus on her new parliamentary group after the RN outperformed expectations at last week’s elections, winning 89 seats.
Ms Le Pen announced that she would not be resuming her position as president of the National Rally (RN), which she initially stepped away from to run for the French presidency earlier this year, following an election performance Sunday that outperformed prior polling projections.
Le Pen, who has been the party’s leader, formerly the Front National (FN), since 2011, said she “will focus on the presidency of this very large group,” after the RN won 89 seats on Sunday in the French parliament, Courrier Picard reports.
“It is true that we were pleasantly surprised by the mobilisation of our compatriots and by this wish that immigration, insecurity, the fight against Islamism do not disappear from the National Assembly,” Le Pen said and added that she would welcome other conservatives and populists into her parliamentary group alongside the elected RN members, including those who supported her in the second round of the presidential election.
She added that her new group would be directed toward “fundamental subjects” citing her support for citizen-initiated referendums, and the “fight against Islamism.” Le Pen added that her first priority will be blocking a proposal to raise the French retirement age from 62 to 65, as proposed by President Emmanuel Macron in March.
Le Pen’s group in the parliament will also likely become the official opposition to President Macron’s minority government as the leftist parties who formed the Nupes bloc have so far declined an offer to form a united parliamentary group under Mr Mélenchon.
The party of populist Marine Le Pen won a historic number of seats on Sunday as President Macron failed to maintain his parliamentary majority. https://t.co/t7kBHLQSeR
— Breitbart News (@BreitbartNews) June 20, 2022
The current interim president of the National Rally, European Parliament member Jordan Bardella, is expected to be a main candidate for the presidency, along with the Mayor of the city of Perpignan Louis Aliot, who has previously expressed an interest in running for the party leadership.
Bardella, a 26-year-old who is described as the “heir” to Le Pen, is said to want to develop the party into a balance of Le Pen’s policies and those of conservative writer and pundit Eric Zemmour, who came fourth in the first round of the presidential election and campaigned not only against mass migration but for policies such as creating a ministry to send migrants back to their home countries.
Mr Aliot meanwhile, is a long-time ally of Ms Le Pen and has been a member of the party since 1990 serving as Secretary-General of the Front National from 2005 to 2010. In 2020, Aliot became the mayor of Perpignan, making him the only current populist mayor of a city in France with a population of over 100,000 people.
Aliot spoke to Breitbart London in the aftermath of the elections, and while he declined to confirm whether he had intentions to run for the leadership or not, he nevertheless remarked: “The [gains] we made last weekend force us to reorganize… we’ll see how things evolve.”
“Marine Le Pen will chair the largest parliamentary group and thus be the largest opposition to Macron… We were only seven in Parliament, not even forming a group and today, the National Rally is officially the first opposition group with its 89 members. This is historic and quite exceptional given the very unfavourable voting system in place,” he said.
“I believe this is a new starting point and that we are going to become the only credible alternative,” he said, echoing remarks made by Brexit leader Nigel Farage in April who stated that Ms Le Pen and her party were “far from finished” after she lost to Emmanuel Macron in the presidential race.
“I think in five years’ time the dam could burst,” Farage said comparing Le Pen’s electoral gains to his own steady progress in the European Parliament and how UKIP’s election gains led to the Brexit referendum and ultimately to Brexit itself.
A party congress is expected to be held to determine the next successor to Le Pen and likely for the first time someone without the name Le Pen will be elected leader of the party.