The leadership of France’s Front National (FN) is seriously considering a name change to the party ahead of the 2017 presidential election, while party membership has reached an all-time high.
The possible name change will be suggested to members after the upcoming FN annual general meeting, at which Marine Le Pen will win reelection as leader—because she is the only candidate.
Membership in the party is, according to media reports, at an all-time high, with at least 83,000 fully paid up “members in good standing.” This makes the FN officially the third largest party in France, behind the conservative Union for a Popular Movement (Union pour un mouvement populaire, or UMP) and the far left Socialist Party (Parti socialiste, or PS), with 268,341 and 160,000 members respectively.
Despite this, a recent poll undertaken by the French-based international marketing firm French Institute of Public Opinion (Institut français d’opinion publique, or IFOP).
According to the poll, if matched in the decisive second round of the presidential election, Le Pen would garner 54 percent and Hollande 46 percent of the votes. The survey confirmed earlier polls showing Le Pen leading all other contenders in the first round. But it was the first time she had been shown ahead of a mainstream candidate in the second round.
Asked about the poll, Le Pen told Le Monde newspaper that she was willing to be prime minister in “cohabitation” with the current president, Francis Hollande, who is deeply unpopular.
“Hollande will inaugurate the flower pots and do the commemorations,” Le Penn said.
The much-speculated upon proposed name change may—or may not—be contained in a questionnaire that will be sent before the end of the year to the party’s members. It is known that party honorary president Jean-Marie Le Pen, 86, who founded the Front National in 1972, is vehemently opposed to any name change and the media is of course trying to exploit this to effect a split in the party.
FN deputy president Florian Philippot, commenting on media reports, confirmed that a name change for the party was possible, although he added that “The more popular we become the less we need to change our name.”
* After strong showings in municipal and European elections, the FN last month won its first ever seats in the French Senate.