- By Emily TamkinEmily Tamkin is a staff writer at Foreign Policy. She writes for FP’s The Cable, a real-time take on the news in Washington and the wider world. She has been at FP since the fall of 2016, before which she was an associate editor at New America, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington. She has a B.A. in Russian literature from Columbia University, an M.Phil. in Russian and East European studies from the University of Oxford, and studied Soviet dissidence in archival centers in Moscow, Tbilisi, and, on a Fulbright, in Bremen — all of which means that at FP, she writes when she can on Russia and Central and Eastern Europe.
Marion Maréchal-Le Pen was thought by many to be the future of the far-right National Front after her aunt Marine’s defeat in the presidential election.
Until Tuesday, that is, when she announced she was quitting politics.
Marion was quoted by Le Parisien as saying she made a “personal choice” to “change her life” and live privately. She added that she had told her aunt, who understood, respecting the choice because she — that is, Marine — knows how difficult political life can be.
It’s possible Marine Le Pen was as relieved as she was understanding. After she lost the French presidential election on Sunday, many thought that her niece, who became the youngest person to serve in French parliament back in 2012, would replace her as head of the National Front. Marion will not be participating in legislative elections this June.
A National Front headed by Marion would have pleased Marine’s father and Marion’s grandfather, Jean-Marie Le Pen, whom Marine Le Pen dethroned as party head in 2011, and who reportedly said ahead of the presidential election that he wished Marion had been the candidate. Some thought that meant the National Front mantle was soon to be thrust upon young Marion — after all, Jean-Marie Le Pen called his daughter a “disgraceful failure” after her loss (though what that makes him must be even worse, given that when he ran in 2002, he earned only half the support she did.)
And many considered Marion, not Marine, to be the true future of the far-right, even though Marine was far from a softy. She wanted to cancel school lunch for children of undocumented immigrants; cut medical help to undocumented immigrants; render halal and kosher meat illegal; decrease legal immigration to 10,000 people a year; hold a referendum to take France out of the European Union; recognize Crimea as Russia; and denied the French state’s role in the Holocaust. But the niece was considered more extreme. Jean-Marie Le Pen reportedly called her decision to leave politics “a desertion.”
In the short term, while Marion returns to private life, Marine Le Pen will likely set about doing what she told her supporters she would on election night: Putting in place a “transformation,” or, at the very least, a rebranding of the Le Pen far-right party.
That’s if Marion stays a private citizen. In 2015, Maréchal-Le Pen told the Guardian, “I’m here for the long term.” Going away for a little while and allowing her aunt to fail at transforming the far right might be just the way to ensure that she doesn’t ultimately go anywhere at all.
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