Who is Marine Le Pen? The far-right politician who vied to be the next president of France

Marine Le Pen. Credit: AP

Far-right politician Marine Le Pen faced Emmanuel Macron for the second time in the French presidential elections after the two traditional parties of France were trounced in the first round, but who is she?

On Sunday, French citizens voted to re-elect Macron by 58.55% to 41.45%, a greater margin than expected.

President Macron trounced Le Pen in 2017 securing 66% of the vote to her 33%, so the result is an improvement for the far-right candidate.

President Macron is still the favourite to win the election Credit: AP

What's her background?

53-year-old Marine Le Pen is the daughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen, who founded the far-right party she now leads.

Her life was heavily impacted by her father's leadership of the party, in 1976 a bomb meant for her father exploded in the stairwell outside the family's apartment as they slept, but no one was hurt.She joined the party when she was 18 and worked as a lawyer for six years in the 1990s before engaging with her father's party full time.

Mr Le Pen was leader of the National Front from 1972 until 2011 and during that time he attracted major national attention but was never a serious contender for presidential office.

He was a vocal critic of the EU, immigration and Islam, often inciting anger with his radical views.

Jean-Marie Le Pen was the leader of National Front until 2011 Credit: AP

His daughter began working within the National Front in 2000 aiming to make the party more attractive to a wider pool of voters.

She managed her father's presidential campaign in the 2006 election and became a senior member of the party's management.

She succeeded her father in 2011 (who was in his 80s when he stood down) and promised to make the National Front more mainstream and often sought to distance herself from some of her father's more controversial statements.

She suspended her father from the party in 2015 after repeating anti-Semitic slurs that had landed him in trouble with authorities in the past.

All of her commitments to being less radical than her father doesn't mean she didn't court her own controversy.

The French election is expected to be tighter than once thought Credit: AP

In 2010 she was criticised from across the political spectrum and by many faith groups for comparing Muslim prayers with the Nazi occupation of France.

But since then she has slowly grown her party's base, reaching a high point in 2017 when she reached the second round of the French presidential elections before being roundly beaten by Macron.

Critics of her party say it is still the far-right party it has always been but now has a more human face.

How did she change for the 2022 election?

Although she has been known for her fierce stance on immigration and French culture, in this election she sought to widen her appeal.

Ms Le Pen leaned heavily on the cost of living issues on the minds of many French voters at the expense of talking about immigration.

Her platform called for measures to soften the blow of rising prices, like slashing taxes on energy bills from 20% to 5.5%, putting €150-€200 per month back in people’s pockets.

Previous commitments to leave the EU and the euro also disappeared.

Marine Le Pen has sought to make her party more mainstream and less toxic Credit: AP

She also continued her path of detoxifying her party from her father's legacy, most notable changing the name of her party from National Front to National Rally in 2018.

It appears to have worked and has seen her come closer to Macron in the polls. She also gained a firm lead among the youngest generations in France.

But it came at the expense of new contenders seeking to fill the far-right they accuse of vacating.

Political newcomer Eric Zemmour achieved 7.1% of the votes in the first round of elections, coming in fourth.

He portrayed himself as the protector of old France, with bold proposals on immigration and Islam. He proposed a “Remigration Ministry,” equipped with airplanes to expedite the expulsions of what he says are undesirable migrants.

Controversial far right politician Eric Zemmour has moved in on Marine Le Pen's former far-right territory Credit: AP

He has been convicted three times of inciting racial hatred and often repeats conspiracy theories without evidence.

Ms Le Pen also lost several supporters and officials who left her in favour of backing Mr Zemmour. After the first round of votes, Mr Zemmour endorsed Ms Le Pen.All of this does not mean Ms Le Penn moved from hard-right to centre-right, had she won the election her policies would represent a radical change for France.

She promised a referendum on a policy to contain immigration and “eradicate political Islam".Among them was ending the policy of family regrouping, which allows immigrants to take up French residence if a close relative is a resident.

She would also expel delinquent foreigners and those who have not been employed for at least a year.

She also planned on introducing other policies that have been labelled as Islamophobic such as banning headscarfs in public and fining anyone who wears them.

Ms Le Pen also planned on introducing "national priority" for housing and other social services given to French nationals ahead of foreigners.What about her connections with Russia?

Something that has worried France's allies in recent weeks is Ms Le Pen's historically friendly stance with Vladimir Putin.

She met the Russian president during the 2017 French election and repeated her support for the annexation of Crimea. She also pledged at the time to lift any sanctions on Russia.

Marine Le Pen met Vladimir Putin in 2017 Credit: AP

Their relationship has also gone a level deeper, due to the National Rally's racist and anti-Semitic past, banks have often refused to lend the party money.

In 2014 the party took €11 million worth of loans from Russian banks, some of whom have links to the Kremlin.

Ms Le Pen has also previously pledged to take France out of NATO's unified command structure, something it only joined in 2009 after historical disagreements dating back to the presidency of Charles De Gaulle were finally settled.

Since the invasion of Ukraine, Ms Le Pen has distanced herself from her pro-Russian past but she has spoken sympathetically about Russia's justifications for the war.

She has also rejected some of the sanctions against Russia saying they would harm France's economy too much.