Marine Le Pen polishes up the FN for Élysée assault

Marine Le Pen ditches the rants and turns on the charm

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Marine Le Pen polishes up the FN for Élysée assault

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Marine Le Pen has transformed France’s Front National from the party she inherited from her father back in 2011.

The tipping point, perhaps, was her decision to expel him after he repeated comments that Nazi gas chambers were a “detail” of history.

However, Marine Le Pen’s charm offensive was already being waged.

In her six years as FN leader she has softened the harsh combative rhetoric and now stands as close to the presidency as she’s ever been.

The Front National used to wallow in France’s political wilderness. But under her command, it’s steadily increased its vote in every local and European election.

Her anti-establishment, anti-immigrant message has struck a tone at home and abroad with anti-EU sentiment spreading.

She’s even dropped the name Front National from a lot of campaign material to give the party an air of respectability.

“In whose name should we accept to welcome each year 200,000 legal immigrants while seven million are unemployed?”

Political analyst Isabelle Veyrat-Masson says Le Pen needs to woo female voters if she is to get near the presidency:“Her rejection of immigrants, her rejection of everything that isn’t “pure French” as others say, could leave her open to accusations of a lack of soul or heart or understanding – she erases those aspects with a way of speaking without harshness, without hatred, which is very remarkable and which makes her an excellent communicator.”

The former lawyer’s campaign has been carefully coordinated and tightly controlled but she too has fallen foul of controversy.

She is being investigated for the alleged misuse of EU funds and for tweeting pictures of Islamic State violence.

Political writer Jean-Yves Camus believes none of those claims will slow her party’s progress:“She is surrounded by a new generation of militants who absolutely have no intention to stay in opposition for 30 years, without occupying elected posts or without arriving one day in a position of power. So she’s doing what has to be done. She’s doing what’s necessary for this party to become more acceptable.”

Nonetheless, lenders have refused to bankroll her presidential bid, putting her at a financial disadvantage to her rivals.

But that appears not to have stopped her from running what she describes as a “joyful campaign.”