Jonathan Miller

Will Le Pen’s niece join Éric Zemmour’s campaign?

She could defy her family and change the course of French politics

Will Le Pen's niece join Éric Zemmour’s campaign?
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Is Marion Maréchal, granddaughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen and niece of Marine, about to emerge from political retirement to support the presidential election campaign of Éric Zemmour? 

Normally the answer to any question posed by a journalist is ‘no’ but maybe not this time. Marion could give new momentum to Zemmour’s campaign, which seems recently to be stuck in a rut. Marion could be the right figure to lure National Front voters — who have been disgruntled with her aunt, Marine Le Pen — towards Zemmour.

Zemmour’s political consultants think she could be the deus ex machina to resolve the conflict at the heart of the opposition to Macron: three candidates — Le Pen and Zemmour in the right lane, and Valerie Pécresse, the official Républicains candidate, on the centre-right.

‘It’s a matter of timing. If she appears on a platform with Éric it could put him in the second round,’ says a source close to Zemmour. Marion is photogenic, smart, charming and voter-friendly — and still only 32. In 2012, she was elected a National Front deputy aged 22, the youngest in French history. To general surprise, she won respect from the left and right for her bipartisan practicality and civility and had an enormous personal following. It became obvious the FN had the wrong leader in Marine.

Yet Marion largely turned her back on national politics in 2017 after the election of Macron and the humiliating defeat of her aunt. In a change of career, she devoted herself to founding new ‘haute école,’ ISSEP, the institute of social science, economics and politics in Lyon. Would she defy her own aunt to throw her influence behind Zemmour? Without a doubt, her friends say. Marion and Marine don’t get along. Indeed, they don’t speak. Marine didn’t go to Marion’s wedding. Marion and Éric Zemmour however get along famously.

Marion is possibly one of the only figures in France who could unite the right. With the right timing, she could sink Marine and put Zemmour in the second round.

It would also mark a second major defection to Team Zemmour after Guillaume Peltier, formerly the vice president of the centre-right Les Républicains, endorsed Mr Z as ‘the only candidate’ and said he had no faith in his party’s candidate Valerie Pécresse.

Marion Maréchal returns to Paris on Thursday morning from her honeymoon in Saint Barts, so she’ll have had other things in her mind. Her new husband is the rightist Italian MEP Vincenzo Sofo. She has one child from a brief previous marriage.

Sources on the French right suggest Marion could be the faiseur du roi or kingmaker — rather than a potential king. Zemmour himself believes Marion is the key, says Paris Match — similar to the crucial role the centrist François Bayrou played in Emmanuel Macron’s campaign five years ago.

Marion knows that the right must present a single candidate. Éric Zemmour and Marine Le Pen would inevitably weaken each other, she says. Others influential on the right agree. Robert Ménard, the mayor of Béziers, a friend of both Le Pen and Zemmour, insists: 'Reason and common sense dictate that one of the two should say: I give up the game and let the best-placed person win.'

Marion looks like she could be the one to finally finish off Marine, and not just because she has little respect for her political talent or intellect. Marion has solid rightist credentials without a whiff of the contamination of her family, which is famous for feuds, estrangement — and being too far to the right of the French public to ever win outright.

She would probably make an excellent minister of education. But I am not at all certain she seeks such a public-facing or political role, even if on offer. She is, however, a conviction politician. There must be a chance that she enters this race if only to influence it. La faiseuse du président?