Poll delivers blow to Le Pen ahead of French far-right relaunch


Days before far-right leader Marine Le Pen unveils a shift in focus to immigration and a new name for her National Front party, an attempt to woo back voters, a poll showed three in four French people think she would make a bad president.

Le Pen emerged politically wounded from last year's presidential election and both she and her party have been searching for relevance since, after the political landscape was upended by President Emmanuel Macron.

Asked by Kantar-Sofres-Onepoint pollsters if Le Pen would make a good national leader, 73 percent of respondents said no. More than half said she was incapable of uniting her divided camp and that the National Front would never win power.

The objective is to break the FN's isolation from the mainstream. Le Pen seeks to head a more inclusive "patriotic" camp as small and large parties alike scramble to reinvent themselves after the unprecedented election victory of newcomer Macron's neither-left-nor-right recipe for politics.

Macron defeated long-established left and right parties by pledging reforms, particularly to liberalize the economy and rigid labour laws, based on pragmatism rather than ideology. Le Pen counters: "Macron gathered around him a hub of shameless globalists ... It's time for those who defend the nation to get together."

Le Pen has been at the helm of the party since 2011, delivering more success than her father and party founder Jean-Marie Le Pen ever managed by making it more palatable to mainstream voters and winning local and European elections.

But her fiery anti-euro stance hurt her in a country where there is still broad support for Europe's single currency and membership of the European Union.

Her shift to make immigration the main policy focus reflects successes enjoyed by far-right parties in The Netherlands, Austria, Germany and most recently Italy, where anti-immigration policies have been championed.

Le Pen has been squeezed on the right of French politics by Laurent Wauquiez, the new leader of the mainstream The Republicans party, who has taken it further to the right and made overtures to National Front sympathizers.

Le Pen will gather the National Front for a full party congress on March 10-11 in Lille, when she will formalize the policy shift and unveil a new name for the party, an attempt to move away from the negative associations of the National Front, including accusations of anti-Semitism and homophobia. It is not clear what new names she is considering.

The National Front brand remains very much associated in many voters' minds with Le Pen's firebrand father, who has been convicted several times for incitement to racial hatred.

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