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Marseille - France's anti-immigrant National Front party entered Parliament for the first time since the mid-1980s on Sunday, with a 22-year-old scion of the Le Pen family becoming the youngest MP ever, but party leader Marine Le Pen narrowly defeated.
Marion Marechal-Le Pen, the blonde granddaughter of party founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, beat a centre-right rival in the southeastern town of Carpentras. Two other candidates backed by the National Front, lawyer Gilbert Collard and former party member Jacques Bompard, defeated Socialists in nearby districts.
“If the elites listened, they would understand why French youth, to which I belong, is joining our ranks,” Marechal-Le Pen said in a victory address, vowing to speak out in parliament for national sovereignty and for giving priority to French nationals.
The wins were a breakthrough for the anti-euro party, which returns to parliament after a dynamic presidential campaign by Marine Le Pen who came third with nearly 18 percent of votes.
But there was a personal setback for Marine Le Pen, who lost by a mere 118 votes to local Socialist Philippe Kemel in the northern working class district of Henin-Beaumont after a high-profile campaign against far-left firebrand Jean-Luc Melenchon.
“Beyond my personal case, we only have reasons to rejoice,” the party leader told a cheering crowd in Henin-Beaumont. “The national movement is once again entering the National Assembly and that is an enormous success.”
The narrow defeat was a first bump in her meteoric career after a year in which she rescued the National Front from financial collapse and transformed it into a potent force, jettisoning her father's anti-Semitic innuendo.
Jean-Marie Le Pen, 83, asked if he was proud of Marion, told French television: “Yes, of course.” After a pause, he added: “I think Marine deserved to win.”
Collard, a celebrity lawyer who is not a party member but headed Marine Le Pen's support committee, said his victory reflected exasperation over ill-controlled immigration.
“I will represent the voice of the people who are fed up,” he said. “I will try to explain to the communities of immigrant origin that they must understand that they have a place in the fatherland on condition that they respect the fatherland.”
The three seats will not be enough to give the National Front a parliamentary group that could influence parliamentary procedure, but it does give the movement a bigger platform to promote its ideas and try to upstage the mainstream conservative opposition UMP party. - Reuters