PARIS Former bullfighter Marie Sara will enter the arena of France's June legislative elections as an ally of president-elect Emmanuel Macron to battle a senior far-right official for a seat in parliament.
Macron, until last year economy minister in the outgoing Socialist government, has blown apart the traditional political boundaries of French politics by winning the presidential election last Sunday under the banner of his own one-year-old Republic on the Move (REM) party.
On Thursday, he named 428 people - around half of whom had never held elected office before - to stand in the coming parliamentary elections for REM in France's 577 constituencies.
Among those picked were a fighter pilot, a mathematician, a taekwondo black belt - and a woman who made a name for herself in the male-dominated spectacle of bullfighting.
In the battle for a seat in southeastern France, the 52-year-old former rejoneador Sara will clash with the outgoing 69-year-old far-right lawmaker Gilbert Collard.
A rejoneador is a bullfighter on horseback armed with a lance.
"The president asked me to defend the values of my territory ... to fight the National Front," Sara, the former wife of French tennis legend Henri Leconte, was quoted as saying by local media.
"I'm used to entering the arena. I know who Gilbert Collard is. He is a good opponent and I am candidate to stop him from being reelected," she said.
Collard won his seat in 2012 with about 42 percent of the vote, but he lost a bid to win a local town hall in the same constituency in 2014.
"Welcome to the arena, Marie Sara Lambert. One puts neither the ears nor the tails in the ballot box, but the serious future of the country," Collard said on Twitter.
(Reporting by John Irish; Editing by Tom Heneghan)