French National Front strips founder Le Pen of position

National Front leader Marine Le Pen addresses a rally last month                  REUTERS  Pascal Rossignol

National Front leader Marine Le Pen addresses a rally last month REUTERS Pascal Rossignol

Le Pen later clashed with her niece Marion Marechal-Le Pen, who withdrew from politics past year, but is still seen by some as the heir apparent to the National Front's political future.

National Front leader Marine Le Pen has suggested her party change its name to National Rally in an attempt to detoxify its image.

Le Pen is seeking to make over her struggling party after her failed presidential bid a year ago. The new moniker, if approved by members during a mail-in vote, will mark the ultimate break with Le Pen's father, who has called the idea a betrayal.

Le Pen - who ran unopposed and secured re-election as the right-wing party's leader during the two-day congress in France's northern city of Lille - said on Sunday the word "front" inspired a sense of opposition, was outdated, and would be dropped.

"The National Front name carries an epic and glorious history, which no-one should deny", Marine Le Pen said.

That compared with 90 percent of respondents wanting a referendum on continued European Union membership and 98 percent wanting to cut immigration to France.

A younger leadership circle will likely emerge, but Marine Le Pen, the only candidate for president, will remain.

He expressed his unequivocal support for the anti-establishment, ultra-nationalist Le Pen and, in a show of populist euphoria, called on followers to celebrate accusations of racism and xenophobia.

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He was suspended on Sunday in a decision that was approved by Le Pen, a party source told AFP. He was officially expelled from the party in 2015 over those remarks, but courts had said that he retained the position of honorary president under the party's rules.

Mr Le Pen called the proposed name change for the FN political "suicide" in a recent interview with Reuters.

In her speech, she slammed Macron's On The Move party as the embodiment of globalists cut off from France's roots.

Macron's tough immigration policy, which he has promised will lead to more deportations and stricter vetting of newcomers to France, also risks taking the sting out of an issue which has driven support for the far right for 40 years. As many far-right parties across Europe have, Ms Le Pen has focused her message on national security and immigration.

On Saturday, congress participants were treated to a barnstorming speech by Stephen Bannon, former chief strategist of U.S. President Donald Trump, who assured them that populism was on the march worldwide. Wear it as a badge of honour. "Because every day we get stronger and they get weaker", Bannon told the crowd.

Ms Le Pen's strategy appears to have tempted some in the centre-right Les Républicains party to consider forging an alliance.

"The National Front has evolved, let's look at whether a deal is possible", Thierry Mariani, a former minister in Nicolas Sarkozy's government, told the Journal du Dimanche. In an Ifop poll published over the weekend, 63 per cent of the French public said the National Front would present a threat for democracy if it gained power.

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