Le Pen ‘reconciles’ with estranged niece fired by Eric Zemmour

Marion Marechal speaks to the media outside the National Assembly in Paris
Marion Marechal speaks to the media outside the National Assembly in Paris - 000381497007

Marine Le Pen’s estranged niece Marion Maréchal appeared to have returned to the family fold on Thursday after she was fired by her former boss Eric Zemmour for insubordination.

The Le Pen “love-in” is the latest twist in the tectonic shifts that have roiled French politics since the European elections last Sunday, when Ms Le Pen’s populist National Rally (RN) trounced president Emmanuel Macron’s centrist Renaissance party.

In the wake of his party’s defeat, Mr Macron then called snap parliamentary elections on June 30 and July 7, urging all moderate parties to unite to forge a “new democratic force” to keep out “both extremes”.

This has sparked fractious attempts to build a “common front” on the Left and huge rifts within the mainstream Right.

Ms Maréchal, 34, fell out with her aunt by coming out of political retirement to lead the EU election campaign for Mr Zemmour’s Reconquest party, which won 5.7 per cent of the vote.

Ms Maréchal, whose strident views on Islam, immigration and abortion have made her the darling of the religious Right, secured herself an MEP seat.

Eric Zemmour with Marion Marechal at a campaign rally in 2022.
Eric Zemmour with Marion Marechal at a campaign rally in 2022. He has now fired her from his party - Jean-Francois Badias/AP

Tensions between Ms Le Pen and her niece are said to hark back to the fact that Ms Maréchal remained close to her grandfather, the 95-year-old party founder, Jean-Marie Le Pen, notorious for his anti-Semitic outbursts and convictions for hate speech.

Ms Le Pen tried to have him expelled as she sought to “detoxify” the then Front National after succeeding him as leader in 2011. Ms Maréchal, on the other hand, praised him as “a visionary”.

Some believe that he brought Ms Maréchal into politics to counter Ms Le Pen because he was jealous of his daughter’s success.

Ms Le Pen now says she has patched things up with her ailing father.

On Wednesday, the blonde hard-Right figure, whose supporters liken to Joan of Arc, launched a broadside against Mr Zemmour for fielding candidates against her aunt’s RN party and those loyal to Eric Ciotti, the renegade centre-Right Republicans boss who also called for an alliance with RN.

Mr Zemmour’s move, she warned, risked scuppering the “unprecedented opportunity to beat Emmanuel Macron and the far-Left”, adding that she refused to “take part in yet another division of the Right”.

Ms Le Pen appeared delighted with the announcement, saying: “Faced with the seriousness of the issues at stake, Marion Maréchal has… placed the national interest above partisan considerations.”

Jordan Bardella, who is leading RN’s legislative campaign, praised her “responsible statement that is part of a patriotic drive to win and act tomorrow”.

Furious, Mr Zemmour announced that he was firing his former number two for “betrayal”.

”Marion Maréchal is shutting herself out of this party that she’s always despised. She is joining the family camp, she is in favour of family reunification,” he said.

Marine Le Pen seen after a meeting with Marion Marechal and Jordan Bardella
Marine Le Pen seen after a meeting with Marion Marechal and Jordan Bardella - Abdullah Firas/ABACA/Shutterstock

Ms Maréchal ruled out rejoining RN and said she expected no government position should her aunt’s party win a parliamentary majority next month, nor would she be running for a seat in the National Assembly as she was already an MEP.

However, “there are obviously people around me who ... have taken the initiative to join this coalition”, she said.

According to Le Journal du Dimanche, four heavyweight Reconquest allies who jumped ship have been offered the chance to run for the Le Pen party.

While smaller outfits fight among themselves, Ms Le Pen’s RN appears set to cruise to a massively increased parliamentary presence from its current 88 out of 577 seats.

The party “will come out on top of the election with the largest parliamentary group but short of an absolute majority”, Philippe Marliere, a University College London political scientist, told AFP.