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Marine Le Pen’s former right-hand man launches new party

National Front (FN) president Marine Le Pen (L) and vice-president Florian Philippot (R) in Paris, France on November 5, 2016.
National Front (FN) president Marine Le Pen (L) and vice-president Florian Philippot (R) in Paris, France on November 5, 2016. REUTERS/Benoît Tessier

Florian Philippot, former vice-president of France’s far-right National Front (FN) party, announced Friday that his political movement Les Patriotes, or The Patriots, has now become a political party.

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The announcement came one week after Philippot quit the FN after profound disagreements with its leader Marine Le Pen.

“This political structure will serve to bring the Patriots together,” Philippot said Friday on French television channel LCI.

“Just eight days ago I never would have imagined this,” Philippot added. “I always said I would continue to be politically active.”

The politician said that some 3,000 people have joined his movement since its creation in May, after Le Pen lost to Emmanuel Macron in the second and final round of the presidential election.

The newly-minted Patriots leader intends to organise a political “tour de France” next year consisting of local meetings and debates.

“We are not sectarian, so The Patriots could easily work with other groups, such as political parties or unions,” Philippot said, in an apparent jab at his former party’s focus on identity politics.

Philippot's departure reveals deeper FN tension

Since the FN’s defeat in the presidential election, it has been struggling with an internal debate about whether to shift away from its traditional priorities of immigration and French identity, or to focus more on economic nationalism, understood as strongly protective economic policy at the national level.

Philippot had promoted the latter, and was one of the key figures in drafting the FN’s proposal to leave the euro zone and return to the franc.

His efforts to steer the FN away from its traditional base of anti-immigration hardliners, towards a platform more concerned with jobs and the economy, ultimately revealed the deepening fissures within the party itself.

According to Marine Le Pen, Philippot’s suggestion that the party is returning to the extremism and anti-Semitism of the party’s beginnings under her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, “made absolutely no sense.”

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