PERPIGNAN, FRANCE (AFP) – Ms Marine Le Pen won re-election as head of France’s far-right National Rally on Sunday (July 4) at a party congress, where she is seeking new impetus for her 2022 presidential bid after performing badly in regional polls.
The National Rally (RN), which had been tipped for strong gains in last month’s regional elections, was left floundering after failing to win any of the 13 regions in mainland France.
The results raised questions about Ms Le Pen’s strategy of trying to detoxify her party’s brand and position it as a more mainstream right-wing force.
But she faced no challenge for the party leadership, with her quest for a fourth term winning the backing of 98.35 per cent of members in an online and postal ballot, RN announced on the second day of its congress in the southern city of Perpignan.
The 52-year-old trained lawyer is expected to use a keynote address later Sunday to try and rally the troops ahead of the presidential vote.
Polls show the election coming down to another duel between Ms Le Pen and centrist President Emmanuel Macron, who defeated the anti-immigration candidate handily in the second round of the 2017 election.
But that scenario is no longer seen as a foregone conclusion.
Mr Macron is also seen as being weakened by the poor performance of his Republic on the Move (LREM) party in the regional election.
LREM, which was founded in 2016, finished last of the big parties, winning just 7 per cent of second-round votes in an election characterised by record low turnout.