Unbowed Le Pen looks ahead to parliamentary elections

PARIS (AP) — Far-right leader Marine Le Pen lost her bid to become France’s first female head of state but she is unbowed, making plans for a major makeover of her party and her next electoral battle: June’s parliamentary elections.

Le Pen’s loss to centrist Emmanuel Macron still gave her a historic number of votes, reflecting the changing image of her once-pariah National Front party from fringe force to a political heavyweight.

Always a fighter defying the odds, the ambitious Le Pen set a new challenge for herself: “a profound reformation of our movement to constitute a new political force.”

The National Front’s interim president, named while Le Pen campaigned for Sunday’s runoff, said the changes include giving the party a new name.

“It’s opening the doors of the movement to other personalities,” Steeve Briois told The Associated Press, “then give it a new name to start on a new basis.”

Changing the name was discussed at the height of Le Pen’s efforts to scrub the party image and remove traces of racism and anti-Semitism that scared away potential backers. But party stalwarts saw the change as too radical.

A new name would help Le Pen distance herself from the old guard — including her father, party founder Jean-Marie, who was kicked out under his daughter’s image revamping.

The party’s new look won’t come about before the parliamentary elections on June 11 and 18.

“We need new tools,” campaign director David Rachline said Monday on France Info radio.

The notion that a new movement under Le Pen could lead to political alliances and entice new voters poses a challenge to Macron, who said during his victory speech that the anger and despair of far-right voters must be acknowledged. He faces his own challenge finding a parliamentary majority.

The message crossed French borders: Germany’s foreign minister, Sigmar Gabriel, laced his welcome for Macron with a warning to the French: “If he fails, in five years Mrs. Le Pen will be president and the European project will go…

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