When more than 100,000 people marched in Paris against antisemitism on Sunday, one political group joining the crowd stood out – far-right Rassemblement National supporters with their leader, Marine Le Pen.
Their appearance was all the more remarkable considering Le Pen’s father, National Front founder Jean-Marie, was convicted of inciting racial hatred for saying the gas chambers used to kill Jews during the Holocaust were “merely a detail in the history of the Second World War”.
The march is the most striking sign to date that Le Pen’s strategy to normalise the party’s image is working, taking down one more barrier in her quest for respectability and boosting her chances in future elections, analysts say.
The shift is part of a strategy, being used by other far-right politicians in Europe including in Italy, Germany and Britain, to help bolster their anti-migration agenda while rebutting suggestions they are racist.
In France, analysts say Le Pen has implemented it so effectively that it is breaking the glass barrier many said blocked the far right from coming to power – a prospect that is horrifying critics who accuse her of political opportunism and of hiding her party’s true colours.
Le Pen has long tried to distance herself from the most inflammatory rhetoric of her father, especially since she took over from him in 2015 and rebranded the party in 2018.
But other French parties kept a so-called “cordon sanitaire”, or health barrier, to cordon off the party politically and symbolically, refusing to let it take part in the same demonstrations.
That came to an end on Sunday, with a march politicians and analysts see as a turning point in the party’s history.
Although they marched at the back of the demo and not at the front with organisers, government officials and two former presidents, Le Pen and her lieutenants were able to take part without being roughed up, as has happened in previous protests.
“She had everything to gain from being at the march,” Jean-Daniel Levy, a political analyst from pollster Harris Interactive, told Reuters. “For 2027, the reasons to oppose her are now fewer than they were even a little while ago.”
Sandrine Rousseau, a Green lawmaker, said Le Pen’s presence had made her uncomfortable. “It’s a tipping point for the Rassemblement National, which is whitewashing the antisemitism of its birth.”
Inside the party, people in Le Pen’s entourage are rubbing their hands in glee.
“Marine Le Pen was given rounds of applause several times in the march,” a source close to her told Reuters. “The real turning point is that attempts to demonise us no longer work.”
Source : Reuters