21:41 GMT07 August 2020
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    The niece of Marine Le Pen, president of the right wing Front National is poised to win power in the southeast of France, according to opinion polls which show the party cashing in on the unpopularity of French President Francois Hollande.

    Marion Marechal-Le Pen, France's youngest lawmaker has won the support of 37 percent of voters for the presidency of Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur, with 34 percent supporting Christian Estrosi, the mayor of Nice, according to an opinion poll commissioned by Le Journal du Dimanche.

    Meanwhile, her aunt, Marine Le Pen is set to take her seat in the depressed Nord-Pas-de-Calais region, setting her on course to challenge for the presidency of France in 2017. She has seen a huge rise in the popularity of her anti-Europe, anti-immigration National Front party, spurred on by the deep unpopularity of Hollande and the continuing migrant and refugee crisis in Europe.

    President of France's far right National Front party Marine Le Pen, delivers her speech during their summer meeting, in Marseille, southern France, Saturday, Sep. 6, 2015
    © AP Photo / Claude Paris
    President of France's far right National Front party Marine Le Pen, delivers her speech during their summer meeting, in Marseille, southern France, Saturday, Sep. 6, 2015

    However, her reputation could be damaged in a court trial on October 20 in which she faces charges of anti-Muslim comments. She brought the party back from the extreme right — as promoted by her father Jean-Marie — and expelled extremists from the party in an effort to win more popular support.

    Anti-Muslim Remarks

    But she is set to face trial for comments she made in 2010, in which she criticized Muslims who were praying in the streets because the mosques were full. She faces charges of "incitement to discrimination over people's religious beliefs," according to the prosecutor's office in Lyon. 

    She is alleged to have told a meeting in Lyon: "I'm sorry, but for those who really like to talk about World War Two, if we're talking about occupation, we could talk about that (street prayers), because that is clearly an occupation of the territory.

    "It is an occupation of sections of the territory, of neighborhoods in which religious law applies, it is an occupation. There are no tanks, there are no soldiers, but it is an occupation anyhow, and it weighs on people," she added.

    She reacted angrily to the charges, which she believes could damage her presidential chances. "It is a scandal that a political leader can be sued for expressing her beliefs," she told Reuters.

    "Those who denounce the illegal behavior of fundamentalists are more likely to be sued than the fundamentalists who behave illegally."

    Her father Jean Marie courted similar controversy through the years. He was accused and convicted several times at home and abroad of xenophobia and anti-Semitism and made several provocative statements interpreted by the legal system as constituting Holocaust denial.

    France's far-right party Front National (FN) honorary president Jean-Marie Le Pen smiles as he leaves the party's headquarters in Nanterre, near Paris
    © AFP 2020 / STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN
    France's far-right party Front National (FN) honorary president Jean-Marie Le Pen smiles as he leaves the party's headquarters in Nanterre, near Paris

    Eventually, in May 2015, he was suspended from the party, but he brought two legal challenges against the party, before finally being expelled in August 2015.

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    Le Pen Family Feud: Hints of Thaw Ahead of Presidential Race
    Tags:
    immigration policy, party, family, poll, popularity, far-right, elections, National Front, Marion Marechal-Le Pen, Jean-Marie Le Pen, Marine Le Pen, Europe, France
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