As the youngest daughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen, the founder of the right-wing French political party the National Front, Marine Le Pen grew up in politics, starting to campaign with her father at 13. Trained as a lawyer, she won her first election in 1998, as a regional councilor, and in 2011, she succeeded her father as party leader. She soon distanced herself from his more extreme positions, and eventually—after he reiterated his claim that the Holocaust was a “detail” of history—she expelled him from its ranks. These days, in the wake of the European migrant crisis, the terrorist attacks in Paris and Nice, and the Brexit vote, Le Pen’s nationalist, Euroskeptical, anti-immigrant message is selling well. Recent polls show her as a leading candidate for the presidency in 2017, with respondents preferring her two to one over the Socialist incumbent, François Hollande. Le Pen spoke with Foreign Affairs’ deputy managing editor Stuart Reid in Paris in September.
Antiestablishment parties, including the National Front, are gaining ground across Europe. How come?
I believe that all people aspire to be free. For too long, the people of the countries in the European Union, and perhaps Americans as well, have had a sense that political leaders are not defending their interests but defending special interests instead. There is a form of revolt on the part of the people against a system that is no longer serving them but rather serving itself.
Are there common factors behind Donald Trump’s success in the United States and yours here in France?
Yes. I see particular commonalities in the rise of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. Both reject a system that appears to be very selfish, even egocentric, and that has set aside the people’s aspirations. I draw a parallel between the two, because they are both success stories. Even though Bernie Sanders didn’t win, his emergence wasn’t predicted. In many countries, there is this current
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