The niece of far-right leader Marine Le Pen launched a political academy on Friday that she hopes will serve as a "finishing school" for would-be luminaries on France's right wing, but denied she was plotting a political comeback. Marion Marechal withdrew from party politics after her aunt's bruising defeat in last year's presidential election but remains hugely popular among the rank and file of the National Front party, now rebranded as National Rally.
"This is not a political project, this school is not affiliated to any political party, nor will it be the lapdog of any political party," said Marechal, who previously went by the surname Marechal-Le Pen, but has dropped Le Pen.
The photogenic 28-year-old former lawmaker, granddaughter of National Front founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, is viewed by many as a possible future leader of the French far-right.
Her aunt's defeat to Emmanuel Macron in last year's presidential election exposed deep rifts within the National Front, with Marechal openly questioning Le Pen's unbending stance on seeking an exit from the euro currency.
Marechal's Institute of Social, Economic and Political Sciences will open in September with the stated aim of "finding and training the leaders of tomorrow" and open to postgraduate students from all strains of the political right.
"What interests us is adversarial debate. We're not going to teach mainstream ideological conformism," Patrick Louis, who will serve as co-president of the school with Marechal, told local news website Lyonmag.com.
Among the academy's supervisory board members, according to the academy's website, is Raheem Kassam, former editor-in-chief of Breitbart News London and a former adviser to Nigel Farage, the former leader of Britain's anti-EU UK Independence Party.
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