By Helene Fouquet
June 18 (Bloomberg) -- France’s anti-immigrant National Front party, which calls for the country’s exit from the euro, won two seats in the parliamentary elections, its first such victory in 15 years.
Marion Marechal-Le Pen, 22, the granddaughter of the party’s founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, 84, won one of party’s seats in yesterday’s legislative elections, with Gilbert Collard winning the other. Marechal-Le Pen will be the first Le Pen in parliament since 1988 and its youngest member since the founding of the Fifth Republic in 1958.
“The ideas that we represent will finally be present at the National Assembly,” Marion Marechal-Le Pen, the niece of the party’s leader Marine Le Pen, said in her victory speech. She promised to defend the national identity, economic protectionism and social welfare during her five-year mandate. Jean-Marie Le Pen was quoted by Agence France-Presse as welcoming her victory saying, “she comes from good stock.”
The arrival of a Le Pen at the National Assembly marks a victory for the party, which has sought to move to the mainstream, breaking from the founder’s anti-Jewish and xenophobic stances. Marine Le Pen, the founder’s daughter who failed to win a seat, has tried to make the party more respectable.
Marine Le Pen came in third in the May presidential election with 17.9 percent of the votes, behind Francois Hollande and Nicolas Sarkozy. She said the National Front’s absence in parliament wouldn’t have been legitimate after 6.4 million people voted for her in the presidential vote.
“It’s a semi-victory because two lawmakers is not a lot, they will have little space to exist at the assembly and the winners are inexperienced politicians,” Jean-Yves Camus, a political analyst for the French Institute of International Relations in Paris, said in an interview. “But with millions of voters and over 30 years of strong political presence, no one can say that the National Front is just a party supported by protesting voters. There is more to it.”
Marion Marechal-Le Pen, a political novice, won with 42.2 percent of the votes against a Union for a Popular Movement candidate. She represents the third generation of the Le Pen family in politics.
She won a constituency in the southern Vaucluse department and came first in the town of Carpentras. That’s where in 1990 dozens of Jewish tombs were desecrated with National Front supporters accused of the act -- a crime Jean-Marie Le Pen has always denied. Marechal-Le Pen promised during her campaign to clear her grandfather’s “soiled honor.”
Marechal-Le Pen joined the party at the age of 18 and was defeated in a 2010 regional election for a second seat in the party’s candidates list.
Meanwhile, Marine Le Pen lost to her Socialist Party rival with 49.9 percent, falling short of about 120 votes. It was her second unsuccessful attempt after the 2007 bid. The 43-year-old, a lawyer by training, was defeated in the northern France constituency of Henin-Beaumont, a former mining region plagued with unemployment nearing 20 percent.
Marine Le Pen, who is a member of the European Parliament, focused her campaign on attacks against European treaties, the region’s stability pact, the euro and immigration policies, which she said have led to France’s 13-year-high unemployment and diminished its sovereignty.
The vote yesterday gave President Francois Hollande’s Socialist Party and its allies an absolute majority in the National Assembly with 314 out of 577 seats, exit polls by Paris-based institute CSA showed. Sarkozy’s UMP party and its allies had 228 seats.
The Front National, founded in 1972, has currently three lawmakers at the European Parliament. It only had seats in the country’s parliament from 1986 to 1988, with 35 lawmakers at the National Assembly. The 1986 victory came after a brief change in the French electoral law. A 1997 win was short-lived after the winner was expelled for breaching electoral rules.
Marine Le Pen has tried to remake the party -- historically based on anti-immigration policies and on the founder’s anti-Jewish views and his World War II revisionist theories -- in a bid to attract more mainstream voters who blame Europe and porous borders for many of the country’s woes.
Her father, who headed the National Front until last year, made it into the second round of the French presidential election in 2002, losing to Jacques Chirac, and garnered 10.4 percent of the vote in 2007. Jean-Marie Le Pen was found guilty by a French court in 1991 for denying the Holocaust.