Paris (CNSNews.com) – A well-received speech by France’s Marion Maréchal-Le Pen at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) last week has prompted speculation here about the political future of the former lawmaker, the niece of National Front (FN) leader Marine Le Pen.
Maréchal-Le Pen, 28, took a break from politics after last year’s presidential election, which Emmanuel Macron won by roundly defeating her far-right populist aunt.
Her speech at CPAC appeared to surprise some former colleagues, including Le Pen herself, who seemed to have been unaware of it when a reporter mentioned it during a weekend interview on the BFM TV news network.
Le Pen said she was proud to see her niece on such a platform but that it did not signal a political comeback. She reminded viewers that it was Maréchal-Le Pen who decided last June to leave politics and dedicate her life to her family and the private sector.
“Marion is not in a political process,” she said. “She went to the United States to speak about her professional project. We cannot take issue with that.”
That education project, Le Pen said, involves training “the leaders of tomorrow,” and is not attached to the FN or any other political party.
Maréchal-Le Pen in a magazine interview last May outlined her plans to establish a political science academy to train political activists on the right of the spectrum.
In her speech at CPAC, she spoke about a resurgent conservative youth on both sides of the Atlantic.
“All I want is the survival of my nation,” she said . “After 40 years of massive immigration, Islamic lobbies, and political correctness France is in the process of passing from the eldest daughter of the Catholic Church to the little niece of Islam.”
According to reporters covering the FN, Maréchal-Le Pen has had some disagreements with her aunt, mainly around how to achieve power.
Although she denies planning a return to politics, some experts and FN members see the speech as an indication that she retains an interest in a political future.
Speculation about the factors that prompted her to take a break from politics include differences with Le Pen, especially after a widely-criticized performance during her last presidential debate with Macron.
She also had differences with former FN number two, Florian Philippot, who himself left Le Pen’s party last September. Philippot recently launched his own movement, the Patriots, and claims to be drawing support away from the FN.
Some experts argue that Maréchal-Le Pen’s tone and committed ideas could well appeal to the right wing electorate, even as Le Pen struggles to recover from her election defeat.
Alexandre Devecchio, a reporter with conservative newspaper Le Figaro, says he believes Maréchal-Le Pen hopes to see an implosion of the FN, to make way for a large new right-wing party.
Devecchio says many people doubt Le Pen can lead the FN to power, and that “Marion is waiting for her time, because she is still very young.”
RTL radio network editorial writer Olivier Bost in a program about the trip to the U.S. said her speech at CPAC “was political – so political in fact that Marine Le Pen was forced to recall several times on BFM TV that her niece had left political life.”
Gilbert Collard, a lawyer and FN member, said he did not believe Maréchal-Le Pen when she said giving the speech was not a political act. Collard said it clearly marked the beginning of her return to politics.
Some FN members praised the CPAC speech, saying it championed conservative ideas.
Brune Poirson, a member of Macron’s En Marche! party who won the seat vacated by Maréchal-Le Pen in legislative elections last June, was critical of the speech.
“Don’t get it wrong, this was a far-right speech,” Poirson said. “It’s not patriotism, it’s nationalism, and that leads to war.”
Maréchal-Le Pen was elected in 2012 to a legislative seat for a district in the country’s south-east. At the time she was 23, making her the youngest member of the house.