Le Pen feud erupts as Marion Maréchal rules out backing aunt Marine - but not Eric Zemmour

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·5-min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
National Rally candidate Marine Le Pen and her niece and far-Right ex-MP Marion Maréchal - Ian Langsdon/EPA/Shutterstock/Shutterstock
National Rally candidate Marine Le Pen and her niece and far-Right ex-MP Marion Maréchal - Ian Langsdon/EPA/Shutterstock/Shutterstock

A damaging feud erupted at the heart of the Le Pen family on Friday after Marion Maréchal reportedly ruled out backing her nationalist aunt Marine for the French presidency but not her hard-Right rival Eric Zemmour.

Marine Le Pen, 53, hit back at her influential niece over what she called her “violent” and “brutal” decision to prefer Mr Zemmour, a 63-year old former TV polemist, saying it was all the more painful as she had “raised her” like her own daughter.

While the National Rally candidate remains currently well ahead of her hard-Right adversary, there is reportedly genuine concern in her camp that her niece’s active involvement in the Zemmour campaign could trigger a stampede in his favour.

In an interview with Le Parisien published on Thursday night, Ms Maréchal, 32, who has dropped her former Le Pen surname, reportedly told the paper she had ruled out supporting her aunt because she had changed political tack too often to be credible.

Asked whether she would throw her weight behind Mr Zemmour, she told the paper: ”I’m thinking about it, no decision has been taken”. She will reportedly make an announcement next month.

She told the paper that Mr Zemmour had "made a lot of progress in his stance, tone and seriousness".

In a separate interview with Le Figaro, she added: "His coherence, vision and strategy make me sway towards Eric Zemmour that's for sure."

Ms Maréchal, who withdrew from public life in 2017 to run a conservative political sciences school in Lyon and raise a family (she is expecting a baby in June), confirmed her intention to return to politics after five years out of the spotlight.

French far-right politician Marion Marechal looks on next to the logo of the ISSEP political science school in Lyon - AFP
French far-right politician Marion Marechal looks on next to the logo of the ISSEP political science school in Lyon - AFP

However, she made it clear: "If I support Eric, it’s not just to pop by and say ‘hi’…It’s a real life change, a big decision.”

Ms Maréchal said the idea of returning to frontline French politics had been “niggling me for some time” but that she didn’t want to “create any family splits”. "There is a family issue," she said.

Stung by the comments, Ms Le Pen reacted on Friday by saying: “If I told you I wasn’t affected by this, you wouldn’t believe me.”

“I have a particular history with Marion because I raised her with my sister for several years of her life, so naturally, it’s brutal, it’s violent, it’s difficult for men” she told CNews.

She accused her niece of breaking a promise to back the nationalist candidate most likely to reach the presidential runoff in April, saying that she was “unquestionably” best-placed to to so. The latest polls suggest that Ms Le Pen will reach the second round against Emmanuel Macron but go on to lose.

Valérie Pécresse, the conservative candidate for the Republicans Party is currently in third place and Mr Zemmour trailing in fourth, most polls suggest.

However, Ms Maréchal said that Mr Zemmour had "a greater margin of progression” among the working classes and abstentionists than Marine Le Pen had among the upper classes. "It is difficult to get rid of an image in politics," added the former MP.

She also slammed her aunt's refusal to call for the mainstream and hard-Right to join forces.

"Marine Le Pen has never been for the disappearance of this dividing line. She only wants to succeed on one side," she told Le Figaro.

Tensions have been high between the two family members in recent years, in particular since Ms Le Pen’s defeat to Mr Macron in 2017 after a disastrous second-round TV debate.

While Ms Le Pen has sought to soften her National Rally’s once jackbooted image, Marion Maréchal, a darling among hard-Right traditionalist Catholics, is seen as far closer to Mr Zemmour both regarding his virulently anti-Islam and anti-immigration rhetoric but also his socially conservative views on family.

French far-Right National Rally presidential candidate Marine Le Pen delivers her New Year's greetings to the French press in Paris on January 26, 2022. - AFP
French far-Right National Rally presidential candidate Marine Le Pen delivers her New Year's greetings to the French press in Paris on January 26, 2022. - AFP

She has notably clashed with her aunt over her party’s support of full public reimbursement for abortions and her social economic plans, including backing the 35-hour week and a return to retirement at 60.

Mr Zemmour has received the backing of Sens Commun, a staunchly traditionalist Catholic group, along with activists who oppose gay marriage. He is far more economically liberal than Ms Le Pen.

The Le Pen camp lashed out at Ms Maréchal’s comments on Friday, claiming: “Even if she did go for it, it wouldn’t boost Zemmour by one per cent. She represents a microcosm, she would be trapped in an extreme-Right ghetto,” one Le Pen aide told BFM TV.

The gleeful Zemmour camp said the reverse was true. “It’s all-out panic in the National Rally”, one campaign aide is cited as saying. “They don’t realise the popularity Marion Maréchal wields within their own electoral base."

Ms Le Pen has dismissed a couple of high-profile defections from her camp to the Zemmour one in recent days as anecdotal but the Zemmour team claim that “this time, it could be fatal for her candidacy”.

Ms Le Pen hopes to burnish her international credentials as the go-to French candidate at a major gathering of European nationalist leaders in Spain on Friday and Saturday attended by the prime ministers of Hungary and Poland.

According to Politico, the Le Pen delegation will include MEP Nicolas Bay, who is rumoured to be a potential Zemmour supporter.

"If (defections) are limited to two people, it's fine, but if there are other heavyweights leaving…,” one member of the Le Pen politburo is cited as fretting.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting