Will Marine Le Pen's rebrand help her win?

French far-right party "National Rally" (Rassemblement National) president and member of Parliament Marine Le Pen delivers a speech as she attends the 76th anniversary since WWII end commemoration on May 08, 2021

Many people know a few basic facts about Marine Le Pen, head of France's far-right National Rally party. They know that she is the daughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen, founder of her party's predecessor, the National Front, known mainly for xenophobia and anti-semitism. They know that she is firmly anti-immigration and adopts a harsh view of what she calls "the rise of Islamism." Marine Le Pen has built a political identity based on these appeals.

But recently, Le Pen has tried to rebrand her image in order to win votes ahead of France's upcoming presidential elections in April 2022. What is Le Pen trying to change, and how might this impact her electoral prospects?

Policy shifts. For years, the junior Le Pen called for France to exit the European Union, arguing that ceding sovereignty to the "globalist" EU strips political power from the French working class. Having once called Europe a "prison" and vowing to hold a UK-style referendum on leaving the bloc, Le Pen has since said that she does not support Frexit: the EU should be reformed from within, she says.

In particular, Le Pen has cited the rise of right-wing European movements — like Lega in Italy and the Swedish Democrats — as proof that there is growing consensus within other European countries for the EU to adopt her ideas on curbing migration into the Union, as well as weakening the European Commission, the bloc's executive branch, which she says has acquired powers far beyond those given to it in treaties.

As part of this shift, Le Pen has also abandoned part of her populist economic agenda, saying that replacing the euro would cause too much instability — likely an effort to appeal to fiscally conservative French voters who might otherwise support the center-right Republicains.

Personal image. For years, Le Pen marketed herself as a tough, no-holds-barred politician, referring to herself as a "warrior" of sorts. But even as she prepares for the fight of her political life, it is clear that the 52-year old veteran politician is now trying to soften her image. "It's time to drop my armor," she said in one recent interview, adding: "I think I have the maturity today, to drop this toughness," before highlighting her qualities as a mother. Some analysts see this as part of a push to broaden her appeal, particularly to women and younger voters.

In tweaking her brand and positioning the National Rally as mainstream, Le Pen is also trying to court establishment center-right voters dissatisfied with the country's current trajectory. (At an event in western France, Le Pen introduced a prominent French businessman as the head of NR's ticket in regional elections, trying to appeal to other would-be defectors .)

And for now, this approach appears to be working: Le Pen is neck-and-neck in the polls with incumbent President Emmanuel Macron.

An unpopular incumbent. Le Pen's campaign is aided by the fact that she will likely face a very unpopular incumbent. Even before the pandemic, Macron's approval rating was weak (67 percent disapproved of his performance). He had lost the support of much of the left-wing flank who think he has shown too much deference to corporate interests and failed to follow through on climate mitigation efforts. This was evident when Macron's La République En Marche party got thrashed in local elections last year.

Perceptions that Macron has mishandled the pandemic have only weakened his standing with the French electorate. This helps Le Pen, who is now traveling the country and mingling with voters, while Macron is focused on reopening the economy after 14-months of painful lockdowns.

Indeed, it's possible that lack of enthusiasm for Macron's candidacy could lead to low voter turnout next year that would make it harder for him to clear the 50 percent threshold needed to secure the presidency than it was in 2017, when in the second round of voting Macron trounced his opponent… Marine Le Pen.

Once a Le Pen, always a Le Pen. Le Pen, aware she can't afford to lose her traditional voters, isn't trying to redefine her entire shtick. In April, she backed a contentious letter by retired French military officials that said "Islamism" was leading France toward a "civil war" — a view reiterated in a letter last week by active military members who wrote: "If a civil war breaks out, the army will maintain order on its own soil." Le Pen also continues to use anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim rhetoric that many say have inflamed inter-communal tensions in France.

And even if Le Pen wants voters to see her in a new light, the Le Pen brand might still be too toxic to get her into the Élysée Palace. For many French sympathetic to her views on immigration and "Islamism," memories of Jean Le Pen's racism and anti-semitism remain too much to overcome.

We believe in access for everyone.

Visa: We believe in access for everyone. Image of a small, diverse group of people, smiling

Gaps in economic opportunities have made it hard for all individuals to take part in the global payments ecosystem. To address those gaps, society needs public policies to empower citizens, small businesses, and economies. That’s why, in 2021, the Visa Economic Empowerment Institute (VEEI) started conducting research and publishing reports about fostering digital equity and inclusion, unlocking growth through trade, and imagining an open future for payments. In 2022, we hope you’ll visit the VEEI for insights and data on the future of inclusive economic policies. See our newest stories here.

A year of Biden

Joe Biden’s first year as US president included two major historic accomplishments and a series of (often bitter) disappointments that has his party headed toward likely defeat in November’s midterm elections. Biden’s own political future is increasingly uncertain.

More Show less
The Graphic Truth: How do US presidents do in their first year?

Joe Biden's approval rating has taken a big hit during his first year as US president. Biden is now just slightly more popular than his predecessor Donald Trump at the same point in his presidency. While Biden has made a series of policy and political blunders that might be reflected in polling, this is also a sign of the times: US politics are now so polarized that presidential approval has a low ceiling. We compare the approval ratings of the last five US presidents in their first year.

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with his Iranian counterpart Ebrahim Raisi in Moscow, Russia January 19, 2022.

Iran and Russia heart each other. The presidents of Iran and Russia have little in common personally, but they share many geopolitical interests, including in Afghanistan and Syria. They also have a common resolve in countering "the West.” These issues are all on the agenda as Vladimir Putin and Ebrahim Raisi held their first in-person meeting in Moscow. Raisi is a hardline cleric who leads a theocracy with nuclear ambitions. Vladimir Putin, meanwhile, is a wily autocrat who enjoys provoking America and Europe, and has ambitions to return to the glory days of the territorially expansive Soviet Union — as seen with the Kremlin's recent provocations on the Ukrainian border. With the Iran nuclear talks on life support and Joe Biden already bracing for Russian troops crossing into Ukraine, Tehran and Moscow now have even more reasons to scheme and cooperate. Indeed, Moscow and Tehran have increasingly been cooperating on energy and security issues (Iran might be buying Russian military technology) as their respective relations with the West deteriorate.

More Show less
Namibian citizen Phillip Luhl holds one of his twin daughters as he speaks to his Mexican husband Guillermo Delgado via Zoom meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa, April 13, 2021

2: Namibia’s High Court ruled against two gay couples seeking legal recognition of their marriages. The judge said she agreed with the couples, who are seeking residency or work authorizations for foreign-born spouses, but is bound by a Supreme Court ruling that deems same-sex relationships illegitimate.

More Show less
President Vladimir Putin

No one knows whether Russian President Vladimir Putin plans on invading Ukraine. But the president of the United States sure seems to think this is a real possibility, saying Wednesday that Putin will likely "move in" in the near term. Biden, prone to political gaffes, was then forced to awkwardly walk back comments that Russia would face milder consequences from the West in the event of a "minor incursion."

The timing of this blunder is... not great. It comes just as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken prepares to meet his Russian counterpart on Friday in hopes of lowering the temperature after recent diplomatic efforts in Geneva were deemed a failure by Moscow.

Indeed, with the Kremlin having amassed at least 100,000 troops surrounding Ukraine on three sides, the growing threat is impossible to ignore. So what would a Russian military offensive into Ukraine actually look like, and how might the West respond?

More Show less

Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, discusses the Democrats voting bill.

What is the status on the Democrats voting bill?

The Democrats are pushing a bill that would largely nationalize voting rules, which today are largely determined at the state level. The bill would make Election Day a national holiday. It would attempt to end partisan gerrymandering. It would create a uniform number of early voting days and make other reforms that are designed to standardize voting rules and increase access to voting across the country. This matters to Democrats because they think they face an existential risk to their party's political prospects. They're very likely to lose at least the House and probably the Senate this year. And they see voting changes that are being pushed by Republicans at the state level that they say are designed to make it harder to vote, particularly for minorities, a key Democratic constituency.

More Show less

Omicron has arrived. It's more contagious, but less severe. Some parts of the world are even looking forward to the pandemic becoming endemic.

Not China. Xi Jinping's zero-COVID strategy has worked wonders until now, but it's unlikely to survive omicron, explains Ian Bremmer on GZERO World.

More Show less

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter, Signal


Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal

A year of Biden


China vs COVID in 2022

GZERO World Clips


Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal