Both Marine Le Pen and her niece Marion Marechal-Le Pen soared to surprisingly easy first-round victories.
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One is a pragmatist: a 47-year-old lawyer by training who has steered France’s far-right National Front (FN) from pariah status to mainstream.
The other is an ideologue: her 25-year-old niece, a Roman Catholic traditionalist whose easy smile and blonde hair belie a stance on abortion, homosexuality and Islam that critics say is dangerous or sectarian.
On Sunday, Marine Le Pen and Marion Marechal-Le Pen — respectively the daughter and grand-daughter of the FN’s firebrand founder, Jean-Marie Le Pen — established themselves as major players in France’s political landscape.
The first round of regional elections placed the FN on track to break the grip of Socialists and conservatives, cementing the party’s grassroots’ rise across the country.
In the Nord-Pas-de-Calais, a rustbelt bastion of the Socialists who rule at national level, opinion-poll estimates gave Le Pen more than 40 percent of the first-round vote.
Victory in the second round on December 13 would give her a springboard for her bid to be president in 2017.
Marechal-Le Pen, meanwhile, also scored above 40 percent in the early estimates for the vast Provence-Alpes-Cote-d’Azur (PACA) region in the south, placing her on course for a landmark win next Sunday.