Front National name change adds to Marine Le Pen’s woes

Rechristening of party as Rassemblement National deemed ‘political assassination’

Front National president Marine Le Pen: her far-right father says a proposed new party name “brings nothing new” and accuses her of “lacking imagination”. Photograph: Thibault Vandermersch

Front National president Marine Le Pen: her far-right father says a proposed new party name “brings nothing new” and accuses her of “lacking imagination”. Photograph: Thibault Vandermersch

 

The extreme right-wing leader Marine Le Pen hoped to restore her party’s flagging fortunes when she announced on Sunday that she was changing its name from Front National to Rassemblement National.

Her father Jean-Marie, who founded the FN in 1972, virulently criticised the change of name, calling it a “political assassination”.

Libération newspaper’s assessment that the “new” party will be more a ressemblement (resemblance) to the old FN than a rassemblement (rally) was typical of commentary.

I think it is disastrous that they are abandoning the name Front National, because it is an inimitable, unavoidable point of reference

Perhaps most damaging for Marine Le Pen, the name was previously used by a second World War collaborationist group, and twice by her father. And it was copyrighted by an unknown right-wing politician who accuses her of “amateurism”.

“I think it is disastrous that they are abandoning the name Front National, because it is an inimitable, unavoidable point of reference,” Mr Le Pen told France Inter radio. The far-right patriarch said the new name “brings nothing new” and accused his daughter of “lacking imagination”. He recalled using the name Rassemblement National twice, in local elections in 1985 and in legislative elections in 1986.

Extreme right wing

The extreme right-wing politician Jean-Louis Tixier-Vigancour also used the RN name, in his 1964 presidential election campaign, when Mr Le Pen was his campaign manager.

Mr Le Pen, who will turn 90 in June, said he was considering “taking back the name Front National”. If his daughter was abandoning it, he said, “I have more right than anyone else to use it.”

No one seemed certain on Monday who the name Rassemblement National belongs to. A certain Frédérick Bigrat registered it with the French INPI, a copyright agency, in 2013 on behalf of Igor Kurek, who was close to the late right-wing politician Charles Pasqua.

After Ms Le Pen’s announcement on Sunday, Mr Kurek tweeted a statement expressing the Rassemblement National’s surprise at “the amateurism of Marine Le Pen and the FN”.

The FN must have known that “the RN exists already and you cannot deny it, since it has competed with FN candidates several times since 2014”, Mr Kurek said, promising to present candidates in the 2020 municipal elections.

‘Fraudulent use’

Ms Le Pen told RTL radio she would sue the Rassemblement National for “fraudulent use” of the name. She claimed the FN copyrighted the name before Mr Kurek used it. Ms Le Pen’s partner and FN vice-president, Louis Alliot, copyrighted the name Alliance pour un rassemblement national in 2012.

The FN issued two statements saying that the rights to the Rassemblement National name had been ceded to it by private agreement on February 22nd, 2018. However, it explained, the INPI had not yet published the change of ownership, which led to confusion in the media. The FN also claimed that the other RN was in the process of dissolution.

In other bad news for Ms Le Pen, the International League Against Racism and Anti-Semitism (Licra) announced it is filing a lawsuit against Davy Rodriguez, the FN official accused of making racial epithets against an African guard in a bar in Lille at the weekend.