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Marine Le Pen reelected as French far-right leader

National Rally party chief wins uncontested leadership race after poor showing in regional elections, as she looks toward 2022 presidential contest

National Rally leader Marine Le Pen reacts after being reelected as leader of the far-right Nationally Rally party, at a party congress in Perpignan, southern France, on July 4, 2021. (Valentine Chapuis/AFP)
National Rally leader Marine Le Pen reacts after being reelected as leader of the far-right Nationally Rally party, at a party congress in Perpignan, southern France, on July 4, 2021. (Valentine Chapuis/AFP)

PERPIGNAN, France (AFP) — Marine Le Pen won reelection as head of France’s far-right National Rally Sunday at a party congress, where she is seeking new impetus for her 2022 presidential bid after performing badly in regional polls.

The National Rally (RN), which had been tipped for strong gains in last month’s regional elections, was left floundering after failing to win any of the 13 regions in mainland France.

The results raised questions about Le Pen’s strategy of trying to detoxify her party’s brand and position it as a more mainstream right-wing force.

But she faced no challenge for the party leadership, with her quest for a fourth term winning the backing of 98.35 percent of members in an online and postal ballot, RN announced on the second day of its congress in the southern city of Perpignan.

The 52-year-old trained lawyer is expected to use a keynote address later Sunday to try and rally the troops ahead of the presidential vote.

Polls show the election coming down to another duel between Le Pen and centrist President Emmanuel Macron, who defeated the anti-immigration candidate handily in the second round of the 2017 election.

A combination of video grabs from an AFP video taken on May 3, 2017, during a live televised presidential debate shows Marine Le Pen, left, and Emmanuel Macron, right. (AFP Photo/Stringer)

But that scenario is no longer seen as a foregone conclusion.

Macron is also seen as being weakened by the poor performance of his Republic on the Move (LREM) party in the regional election.

LREM, which was founded in 2016, finished last of the big parties, winning just 7% of second-round votes in an election characterized by record low turnout.

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