November 14, 2017 / 1:59 PM / a year ago

Soul-searching at France's FN - far-right party polls activists

NANTERRE, France (Reuters) - Who are you and what do you want? Seeking to rebrand itself and bounce back from electoral defeat, France’s far-right National Front on Tuesday sent a questionnaire to party members asking them whether it should change its name and policies.

Marine Le Pen, member of parliament and head of France's far-right National Front (FN) political party, laughs as she visits the "Made In France" fair in Paris, France, November 12, 2017. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

Six months after party leader Marine Le Pen suffered a crushing defeat against centrist Emmanuel Macron in the presidential election run-off, the poll is part of the 45-year-old National Front’s (FN) efforts to relaunch itself.

“We need to ask ourselves why we didn’t win the presidential election and how we can improve our political offer,” said FN lawmaker Sebastien Chenu. “We want to win elections, we owe it to our members.”

The FN’s 81,000 cardholders - which includes those up to a year late on party dues - are asked to say what type of job they have and where they get their news from.

More crucially, they are asked if they want to ditch the euro and hold a referendum on France’s membership of the European Union and if they think the party should focus less on immigration.

Opposition to the euro and immigration have long been at the heart of the party’s policies, but in the six months since her defeat, Le Pen has progressively watered down her anti-EU stance, which is unpopular and widely considered to be one of the reasons why the FN does not win major elections.

Party officials will use the results of the questionnaire to help prepare a party congress to be held in mid-March.

Members are also asked if they want to change the party’s name. While the FN is a well-known brand throughout France, it is largely associated with Le Pen’s father Jean-Marie, the party founder, who was several times convicted for incitement to racial hatred.

While the FN got more votes than ever in the presidential election, the lower-than-expected second round score as well as the parliamentary election that followed were a huge disappointment for the party and its cardholders.

Opinion polls over the past months have shown Le Pen’s popularity has taken a hit even among party members and it is the far-left France Insoumise (France Unbowed), not the FN, that voters see as Macron’s strongest opponent.

Le Pen said the party needed to learn from its errors and rebrand itself. Her willingness to water down her opposition to the euro lead to the eviction of Florian Philippot, who had been her closest aide since she took over the party in 2011 and an architect of her policy plans.

Editing by Janet Lawrence

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