Bannon to attend French far-right summit, meet Le Pen

JOEL SAGET

French far-right leader Marine Le Pen is set to propose a name change for the National Front, part of a makeover created to make the anti-immigration party relevant again after she was defeated by Emmanuel Macron in the presidential race.

"Let them call you racists, let them call you xenophobes, let them call you nativists, wear it as a badge of honor", Bannon told members of the anti-mass immigration party in video published by The Washington Post. The populist 5-Star Movement and the anti-immigration League both outdid traditional parties.

The French National Front (FN) leader, Marine Le Pen, is trying to pull her divided far-right party together this weekend at its first conference since she lost to Emmanuel Macron in the presidential election. The outcome has boosted far-right movements across Europe and was seen as a victory for the forces that elected Trump and voter approval for Britain to leave the European Union.

Party members supported legalised euthanasia, which Le Pen opposes, favour of gay marriage and are against the death penalty, she said.

Steve Bannon delivers a speech during the French far-right Front National (FN) party annual congress, March 10, 2018 in Lille, France. But the pair had a bitter public falling out and Bannon was sacked by the White House last August, though he continued to speak with Trump and tried to promote the president's agenda.

Party vice president Louis Aliot tweeted that Bannon, whose platform for Trump echoed ideas NF leader Marine Le Pen has long championed, will come to the congress and meet with her.

"Bannon, former strategic advisor to United States president, represents rejection of the establishment of which one of the worst symbols is Brussels's EU".

Bannon also used his visit to call Le Pen's niece Marion Marechal-Le Pen one of most important people in the world, according to French media.

PHILIPPE HUGUEN

Marechal-Le Pen, a Catholic hardliner and darling of the FN old guard withdrew from politics previous year.

But party members credit Marine Le Pen with massively expanding the party's support, doubling its score from 5.5 million votes in the 2002 presidential election to 10.6 million, or nearly 34 per cent, in 2017.

At home, she is banking on divisions between pro-Macron centrists and rightwingers tearing his party apart, making the FN France's biggest party of the right.

A younger leadership circle will likely emerge, but Marine Le Pen, the only candidate for president, will remain. The National Front today has changed in nature.

Recent polling showed that 55% of respondents don't want Le Pen to run in the next election.

The weekend congress is expected to erase one persistent problem for Le Pen - her unpredictable, bombastic father - by eliminating his title of honorary president-for-life from party statutes.

Angela Charlton contributed in Paris.

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