French far-right leader Marine Le Pen loses another ally as niece pulls support

French far-right leader Marine Le Pen is tipped as a likely candidate to reach the second round of the presidential election in April. But she has lost the support of her niece, a darling of the far-right.

Marion Maréchal (left) and Marine Le Pen (right) are both important figures of the French far-right.
Marion Maréchal, left, became the first National Front MP elected to the French parliament since 1997 in 2012. She has refused to lend her support to her aunt, Marine Le Pen, right. (Photo by Joël SAGET / AFP)

Marion Maréchal, a former MP for the far-right Rassemblement national (RN) party, will not support its candidate – her aunt, Marine Le Pen – in the French presidential election. 

In an interview with Le Parisien, Marion Maréchal, who became the youngest MP in French parliamentary history at the age of 22 back in 2012, hinted that she may lend her support to another far-right candidate, Éric Zemmour. 

“It would not just be a question of passing by and saying hello. It would mean returning to politics,” she said on Thursday.

“It is a true life choice to make, a decision that weighs heavily.”

Marion Maréchal stepped down as an MP in 2017 to set up a private university in Lyon specialised in conservative political studies, but remains a popular figure of the French far-right. 

Marine Le Pen has reacted angrily to the news which comes after the high profile defections of former close allies Gilbert Collard and Jérôme Rivière to Zemmour.

“She indicated that she would support the candidate that is best placed. Undoubtedly, I am the better place than Éric Zemmour today as I am tipped to make it to the second-round of the election,” said Le Pen. 

An unnamed  member of Le Pen’s entourage told BFMTV: “Even if she [Marion Maréchal] went for it, it would only increase Zemmour’s support by 1 percent. She represents a microcosm. She has shut herself into an extreme-right ghetto”. 

According to a poll conducted by Harris Interactive from January 21-24, Marine Le Pen is the most likely candidate to face French President Emmanuel Macron in the second round run-off of the presidential election in April, winning 17 percent of the vote in the first-round. 

The next likeliest challenger is the right-wing conservative candidate, Valérie Pécresse, who is currently polling at 15 percent. Éric Zemmour, a far-right media pundit and newcomer to the world of party politics, stands at 14 percent. 

Macron has yet to officially announce his bid for reelection but last week said he would give his decision “in due course”. 

Member comments

  1. It would seem to escape all far right candidates that a vote for any of them is basically a vote for Macron. Unless their supporters show more sense and engage in large-scale tactical voting, it will be more of the same come April.

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Profile: The historian and minorities expert heading up France’s education ministry

Pap Ndiaye, a historian specialising in minorities who currently heads the museum of the history of immigration in Paris, is President Emmanuel Macron's surprise choice to head the French education ministry.

Profile: The historian and minorities expert heading up France's education ministry

Whereas most of the top ministerial posts in Macron’s new cabinet that aims to take the government into parliamentary elections next month went according to script, Ndiaye’s nomination was a surprise to most observers.

His appointment carries on a tradition for Macron of taking prominent French personalities from outside politics to lead ministries, after he named star defence lawyer Eric Dupond-Moretti justice minister in 2020.

READ ALSO Who’s who in the new French government

Ndiaye is a historian with an international profile, specialising in the social history of the United States and minorities, who was named to lead the Museum of the History of Immigration last year.

He will now need to use all his experience and knowledge for taking on the new challenge of the education ministry, which has seen major tensions in the last years between his predecessor, Jean-Michel Blanquer, and teachers.

Born outside Paris to a Senegalese father and French mother, Ndiaye was for many years a professor at the elite Sciences Po university in Paris.

“In the field of history, he is someone who has been innovative and able to show a new way of understanding the past,” said historian Pascal Blanchard

“He’s a teacher who knows what it’s like to be in front of a class of students,” he told AFP, adding, “In a diverse society, it is important to have someone who is attentive to diversity.”

Ndiaye first gained national prominence with his 2008 work The Black Condition, an essay on a French minority.

“My objective was to provide arguments and knowledge as robust as possible to young people who lack solid references,” he told AFP in March 2021, when he took over at the immigration museum.

“It seemed to me that it was part of my role as a teacher to offer these foundations,” he said.

He said at the time that his appointment at the museum should open “the field of possibilities” to young “non-whites”, while emphasising that his appointment was due to a long career as an academic.

“I am not blind to, and don’t turn my back on, questions of symbol. I also apply the same to the colour of my skin.

In 2019, he was a consultant for an exhibition at the Musee d’Orsay in Paris on black models, and in 2020 he co-authored a report on diversity at the Paris Opera.

His sister is the prominent French novelist and playwright Marie Ndiaye.

Some on the French left reacted with astonishment that the celebrated historian of social change was now in the government.

“I am amazed. I did not see him in there at all,” said Alexis Corbiere of the far-left France Unbowed party. He said the “media stunt” would not defuse anger within the French education system.

SNES-FSU, the main secondary school teachers’ union, welcomed the appointment of Ndiaye “as a break with Jean-Michel Blanquer in more ways than one”.

But it also warned that education “is not governed solely by symbols” and that rapid responses were needed “particularly in terms of wages”.