Published: Sun, March 11, 2018
World | By Camille Rivera

Bannon to France's Far Right National Party: 'History Is on Our Side'

Bannon to France's Far Right National Party: 'History Is on Our Side'

The European tour comes as Bannon's role in American politics is uncertain.

"Welcome to Steve Bannon who will address the our congress and will meet ML [Le Pen]. He has understood like Trump and Matteo Salvini [the head of the Italian League] the wish of the people to control their own destiny".

This week Le Pen seemed heartened by the strong gains made by the allied anti-immigrant League party in Italy's general election, hailing it as a "new stage in the awakening of the people". However, this weekend's conference to transform and "refound" the party is threatening to fall short of its goals of unity and optimism.

Steve Bannon gives a press conference during the French far-right Front National (FN) party annual congress, March 10, 2018 at the Grand Palais in Lille, France. "It went from a party of protest first in its youth, then from a party of opposition to a party of government", Le Pen said on French broadcaster France 2.

Since taking over in 2011 with her father's blessing, Le Pen has embarked on a process of "de-demonising" the FN, which has involved shrugging off its xenophobic, bully-boy image.

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Le Pen previous year made it to the run-off in the French presidential election which she then lost to Emmanuel Macron, whose policies she said were "putting down the middle and lower classes".

A questionnaire sent to party members found immigration remains the biggest preoccupation of FN supporters.

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.

Last month, a court of appeal confirmed his exclusion as honorary president of the FN, a position the conference is expected to vote to drop.

Marion Marechal-Le Pen, a former lawmaker, is more socially conservative and economically liberal than her aunt.

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The questionnaire includes questions on Europe, immigration, social matters, education and family policies.

"There may be surprises for some when they read the answers", she said.

The new moniker, if approved by members during a mail-in vote, will mark the ultimate break with Le Pen's father, who has called the idea a betrayal.

Bannon said he agreed with Le Pen's expressed belief that "it is not about left versus right".

Le Pen's performance in a pre-election debate with Macron was seen as one of the main reasons her party was defeated. 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.

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In France, some warned that Bannon's support could damage Le Pen's efforts to cleanse the National Front of the racist stigma that has long clung to the party's image.

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