MARINE Le Pen has taken over from her father as leader of the far-right Front National after picking up 68 per cent of the votes in the presidential election.
Immediate opinion polls have suggested that she could do better than retiring party founder-president Jean-Marie Le Pen, with one in five people saying they had a good impression of her and 52 per cent saying she was a more credible presidential candidate than her 82-year-old father.
Her election is seen as a move towards the political mainstream for the party that has previously been defined by her father’s fierce views on immigrants, the Holocaust and internal security. She is no more moderate, just more in tune with the desires of the younger white voters.
She has already shown that she will maintain his tough stance on Islamisation after causing outrage when she compared Muslims praying in the streets to an “occupation”.
Her election has put a dent in re-election hopes of President Sarkozy, who fears her views will chime with many in his UMP party. Support already shown in opinion polls could earn her a place in the second round of voting, repeating the achievement of her father in 2002.
Ms Le Pen, 42, said after her election: “We must make the Front National a tool to regain power.” She called for France to be reborn as a “strong, republican and secular” state.