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11 March 2018, 12:55 | Bernice Figueroa
France's Far Right Seeks Reboot Through Name Change, Unity Push
Former White House strategist Steve Bannon on Saturday told supporters of France's far-right Front National party to not be embarrassed by their history, as it is "on our side and will bring us victory", the Guardian reports. "Let them call you xenophobes. He has understood like Trump, Matteo Salvini and Marine Le Pen the wish of the people to control their own destiny", he tweeted. She said it was important to hear the ideas of a man who was "the architect of Donald Trump's victory" and has written about globalization and giving to regular people "power, which in his mind and mine, too, has been practically illegally captured by the elite".
Le Pen has long sought to "de-demonize" her party by distancing it from its origins.
Bannon, who served as US President Trump's strategist for seven months before the relationship deteriorated, crossed the Atlantic to embark upon a tour of Europe's right-wing parties.
Bruno Cautrès, of the centre for political research at Sciences Po, said the party was undergoing a "crisis of Marine Le Pen's leadership". He was sacked in August over incendiary comments he made in a book about Trump's White House.
According to Le Pen, the party "must acquire the culture of alliances, acquire the culture of a government party", and "changing the name is one of the ways to make it known".
A new name, a new leadership structure and new bylaws are being unveiled at the two-day congress with the hope of making the party relevant again.
While Le Pen is facing no immediate threat of overthrow - she is expected to be re-elected unopposed as party president - her father, Jean-Marie, who was thrown out of the FN for racist remarks, continues to snipe from the sidelines.
Bannon has already spoken in Zurich, Switzerland at an event organized by a conservative publication, and on Saturday headlined the annual conference for France's National Front.
Likewise, Le Pen was a prominent contender for the French presidency in May 2017, but she lost to Emmanuel Macron in a landslide vote.
A recent opinion poll by Kantar Sofres confirmed the diagnosis: 55 per cent of respondents said they did not wish Le Pen to be the FN candidate at the next presidential election, and less than one in five believed she inspired confidence. The outcome has boosted far-right movements across Europe and was seen as a victory for the forces that elected Trump and voter approval for Britain to leave the European Union.
On some level, the speech presented another development in the transatlantic relationship between far-right movements in the United States and Europe, particularly in France. She bowed out of politics after her aunt's presidential defeat, but is expected to come back in a new role.
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