France’s RN elects Bardella as new president instead of Marine Le Pen

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PARIS, Nov 5 (Reuters) – France’s far-right Rassemblement National (RN) elected Jordan Bardella as its new president on Saturday, overwhelmingly backing the 27-year-old European Parliament member to succeed Marine Le Pen in the post.

Bardella, a party loyalist who had already been interim president for a year, won nearly 85% of party members’ votes, against 15% for his challenger Louis Aliot, who is Le Pen’s former partner.

It is the first time the party will be led by someone who is not a member of the Le Pen family.

Le Pen, who has diluted some of the party’s anti-immigrant, eurosceptic policies, stepped down from RN’s leadership structure in 2021 ahead of her unsuccessful bid for the presidency in this year’s election, which was won by incumbent Emmanuel Macron.

“I am not leaving RN to take a holiday. I will we there where the country needs me,” Le Pen told Saturday’s party convention. She is widely expected to make another presidential bid in 2027.

Bardella, who hails from a tough working-class neighbourhood, has said he will continue her efforts to attract voters beyond the party’s far-right core.

Bardella told Reuters last week that the fact that someone from outside the Le Pen family could chair the RN represented a “small cultural revolution”.

The former National Front party was founded in 1972 by Marine’s father, Jean-Marie Le Pen.

Bardella has become one of Le Pen’s most recognised lieutenants in French media. His quick wit and brutal soundbites have made him a formidable opponent for Macron’s ministers and lawmakers on TV shows.

A boxing enthusiast raised in a social housing block in the outskirts of Paris, Bardella has risen quickly through the party ranks. In 2019, he led its campaign for European elections, when it took the top spot just ahead of Macron’s centrist party.

Bardella takes over after the French parliament on Friday cut the pay of a far-right lawmaker and temporarily banned him from the chamber for shouting “Go back to Africa!” as a Black legislator was speaking during a parliamentary session.

(Reporting by Geert De ClercqEditing by Toby Chopra and Helen Popper)

Rassemblement National (RN) far-right party President Jordan Bardella. EPA-EFE/CHRISTOPHE PETIT TESSON

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