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Far-right French politician to CPAC: ‘Vive le nationalisme’

Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, niece of National Front leader Marine Le Pen, spoke Feb. 22 at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Oxon Hill, Md. (Video: The Washington Post)

Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, the youngest member of France’s far-right political dynasty, was set to deliver the most controversial speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference. When her appearance was announced, American Conservative Union Chairman Matt Schlapp found himself defending it from National Review and the American Conservative.

The speech itself, delivered to a half-full ballroom after a scheduling change, was a call for nationalism in every country. Maréchal-Le Pen joked about the media’s coverage of her — “yesterday I was a fascist, today I am a socialist” — then described the Trump administration as the natural heir of America’s first patriots.

“I am not offended when I hear President Donald Trump say ‘America first,’ ” she said. “I want Britain first for the British people, and I want France first for the French people.”

Maréchal-Le Pen began to describe France’s “conservative movement” — her old party, the National Front, is one of several that bids for conservative voters — as a campaign for “independence” from bureaucrats that controlled her country’s moral standards and diplomatic alignments. “Our freedom is now in the hands of the European Union,” said Maréchal-Le Pen, to boos.

She turned briefly to the issue that had made the National Front infamous: its opposition to Islamic immigration. “After 40 years of massive immigration,” she said, “an Islamic counter-society has developed in France.” Her country, she warned, risked transforming “from the eldest daughter of the Catholic church to the littlest niece of Islam.”

The Muslim population in France, grown over the years by in-migration from Muslim-majority nations that once were colonies, is a bit under 10 percent; more than 60 percent of the French identify as Christians.

Maréchal-Le Pen spoke for just 10 minutes, and the crowd grew slightly as she finished. “There is a youth ready for this fight in Europe today,” she said. “Vive le nationalisme!”