LYON, France (Reuters) - Members of France’s far-right National Front party voted to change its name to the “National Rally” on Friday, in a bid to shed a brand associated by many voters with racism and anti-Semitism and facilitate alliances with other parties.
Speaking at a party meeting in Lyon, leader Marine Le Pen sought to reassert her authority following her defeat by President Emmanuel Macron last May.
Le Pen said the decision would give the party new momentum and that priority should be to gain power, which could only be achieved through a coalition with allies.
“It closes a chapter of our movement, but it opens a new and better one that will not be less glorious,” Le Pen said.
The new name - “Rassemblement National” in French, meaning rally or union - is meant to show the party’s new willingness to rally other parties behind it, and drop antagonistic connotations of the old Front, she said.
In a concession to the old guard, the party will keep its red-white-and-blue flame logo.
The new name comes a year before European elections, for which Le Pen is hoping to form alliances with other right-wingers, notably Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, to rival Macron’s party.
It also comes as her niece Marion Marechal returns to the public scene after quitting politics last year. The 28-year-old former lawmaker, a granddaughter of National Front founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, is seen as a potential leader of the far right.
In a sign she is distancing herself from the family with a view to her own political future, Marion last month removed Le Pen from her name on Twitter and Facebook.
Reporting by Catherine Lagrange; writing by John Irish; editing by Larry King