Marine Le Pen is a leading candidate in the French presidential election, the first round of which is taking place this weekend on April 23. It will be followed by a runoff election on May 7.
Le Pen is the leader of France's far-right political party, the National Front (FN). She won the role of party president in 2011, but the party has been a part of her life since birth: Her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, was co-founder of the party and the leader for more than 40 years. Under her father’s leadership, the National Front was seen as xenophobic and anti-Semitic. That’s largely due to Le Pen’s repeated comments dismissing Nazi gas chambers as a mere “detail of history,” for which he was convicted for “contesting crimes against humanity.”
As Vox’s Sarah Wildman explains in the video above, Marine Le Pen has worked to soften the hardline politics of the FN and bring their far-right platform into the mainstream. A major step in this effort was severing ties between the National Front and her father in 2015. It was a decision she had hoped would distance the party from his often anti-Semitic rhetoric, but that has not been easy.
Ten days before the election, Marine Le Pen denied French responsibility for the 1942 Velodrome d'Hiver roundup of 13,000 Jews. By questioning the guilt of French authorities in the Holocaust, Le Pen suddenly shifted the conversation back to anti-Semitism and opened questions about whether the party could really shed its past.
Instead, Le Pen would like to focus on her policy platform, which is staunchly populist and centers on 144 so-called “presidential commitments.” In addition to restricting immigration, Le Pen would like to ban forms of public religious expression that she believes threaten French culture. She has also called for the withdrawal of France from several international organizations, such as the European Union and NATO, which she sees as globalist organizations that favor foreign interests at the expense of France.
A Le Pen victory would be a shuddering blow to pro-European leaders. As the polls open this weekend, many will be wondering whether the nationalist fervor that has swept across Europe will continue gaining momentum in France.
To learn more about Marine Le Pen and her vision for France, watch the video above.