Marine Le Pen, the daughter of National Front co-founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, led the party to historic gains in French elections last month by rolling out a more tempered brand of nationalism. She is now trying to build a new alliance of European nationalists in the European Parliament. Elections are in May.
Q. To what extent is your party really different today then it was when your father first formed it in the 1970s?
A. Well of course it has to be different, because a party isn’t the same when it reaches 10% and when it reaches 25% of the votes. The National Front has most of all become more mature. It is now more then 40 years old. The National Front used to be a party of opposition, a party that would question and criticize the system, it is now a party that is ready to rule.
Q. The party is described as a reformed party, but is it more you yourself that is more moderate than the party itself?
A. I believe that politics is a matter of person. Specifically in the Fifth French Republic. In a healthy political system, a political party should resemble its leader. This is the reason why there is an ongoing political crisis in France, because this is not the case in other parties. For instance the issues and desires of the electoral basis of the [center-right Union for a Popular Movement] are very different from those of the leaders of the UMP, and this is what generates this political crisis today in France.
Q. Is there still a home for extreme-right thinking in your party?
A. I have always been very clear on this subject: the National Front is not a far-right party. The party has been called this by our opponents to discredit us. For that matter, any patriotic movement that seeks to oppose the political choices made by those who lead their country are called that way, so as to discredit them. Once I was giving an interview to a Japanese journalist who looked at me in a candid way and said: “I don't understand why they call your party far-right, I don't see any proposal in your program from the far-right.”
Q. If you succeed in forming a block in the European elections, what would you do in Parliament?
A. Do anything I can do to stop European integration and retrieve as much power as possible from the E.U. to give this power back to the nations. I have four priorities. Give back to the French their sovereignty over the French territory, their sovereignty over the currency, their sovereignty over the economy and the law.
Q. So you want to pull out of the European Union?
A. The Front National wants to organize a referendum to ask the French whether they want to stay in the E.U. or not. The opinion of the French was betrayed in 2005. When they said “no” to the Lisbon Treaty, the political leaders said “yes” and stabbed French voters in the back. Before the referendum, I will go to the E.U. saying that I want them to give us back full sovereignty on the issues previously mentioned. If the E.U. refuses, I will then ask the French to pull out of the E.U.
Q. How close are you from achieving a coalition of European parties?
A. I am convinced we’ll have a group. So far our research is doing well, I think we’ll have the Austrian Freedom Party, the Swedish Democrats, Fratelli d’Italia and/or the Northern League in Italy, Geert Wilders’s party in the Netherlands, and others with whom we’re currently in discussion with.
Q. For instance for Jobbik and Golden Dawn . . . you said you didn’t want them as part of your coalition, why is that? And if not them, who else would work?
A. Golden Dawn is a neo-Nazi group, so there is no way we’ll work with them. As for other movements, they do not defend the principles required to belong to the group.
Q. You’ve been quoted for saying that school should not be a place for religious expression. Is it true that you’re going to stop offering meals without pork in the cities where your party won mayorships? What other changes can we expect to see in these National Front run towns?
A. What I said is that there are schools in France today where pork meat is prohibited. I am in favor of prohibiting the prohibition of pork. Now there is always a choice in French schools, and this is a good thing. However I do not see why in France pork should be prohibited just because a minority doesn’t eat any, and deprives others of the right of eating pork.
Q. What does that practically mean on the ground though?
A. There is always an alternative. If you give in to religious groups on little things, they’ll always comes for more. For instance last year in Le Havre, 8,000 chocolate mousses were thrown away just because there was pork jelly in it. We must put this to an end.
Q. What other changes are you proposing in these cities?
A. Reduce taxes. Stop city funding for community-based and party-related associations. Implement policies in favor of small businesses and shops against supermarket chains that are killing them. And finally implement a zero tolerance policy on security issues.
Q. What does your father think about your updated message?
A. Quite honestly, I think that Jean-Marie Le Pen is happy to see that the National Front is turning itself into a party that is able to rule. He has no taste for useless effort. So he is very well aware that in order to achieve this the FN must reach out to more than 50% of the French. For this reason it is only natural that the FN should appeal to patriots from the left and the right.
Q. Have you repudiated the comments your father made on the Holocaust? And what are your own views on the Holocaust?
A. I have never tried to bear a judgment against my own father, because I consider that in our European culture one does not judge his parents. Now I have expressed my disagreements with my father on certain points, disagreements related to the way one should express things, something that has also to do with a difference of generations. I would like to say that the National Front has never been anti-Semitic. Not only am I not anti-Semitic, but I have explained to my Jewish compatriots that the movement that is most able to protect them is the National Front. For the greatest danger today is the rise of an anti-Semitism in the suburbs, stemming from Muslim fundamentalists.
Q. Another critique against the FN is that it is rooted in Islamophobia. What is your policy on immigration in France, specifically when it comes to Muslim countries?
A. It is interesting to see how this word “Islamophobia” that was created by the Islamic Republic of Iran, has progressively penetrated the highest spheres of political power and the media. Our positions are very clear and are completely in line with those of the Republic. One can become a French citizen . . . if only the French accept it. One must respond to a certain number of criteria. As of today we are in favor of the stopping of immigration because France has been facing massive and anarchic immigration in the past 30 years, and this causes significant problems on the economy and in our society. This in the end prevents the assimilation of immigrants with the local population. And this a source of conflicts.
Q. Do you expect to be the president of France one day? If you were, what would France look like after your first term?
A. Yes, I consider being president one day. The reason for this is because I do not see anyone in French politics today who is brave enough to implement measures to help France get back on its feet. Only then will France look like France again. France hasn’t looked like France in a very long time.