Macron presides over quickening collapse of French politics

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"It's the people who decide", Marine Le Pen said during the final days of the run-off campaign. She said she wanted to spend more time with her young daughter and been interested in working in civil society "for some time" because she "loves the world of business".

During the campaign she studiously avoided using her tainted family name, and swapped the FN's trademark flame logo for a blue rose, using the slogan "Choose France".

But her score fell far short of forecasts, despite the stars appearing to be aligned in her favour after the victory of fellow nationalist Donald Trump in the U.S. election and Britain's vote to leave the EU.

The party began in 1972 as a fringe, extremist group; for years, it was ignored or boycotted by much of the rest of the country. She is also one of the two representatives of the FN party in French parliament.

Le Pen's defeat has raised questions about her leadership and she may not run for parliament in her northern fiefdom of Henin-Beaumont, where she narrowly lost in 2012. In 2017, Ms. Le Pen took part in debates, and came across as an accepted member of the political class. "But she'll have to grow a bit older first", he added.

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In the short term, while Marion returns to private life, Marine Le Pen will likely set about doing what she told her supporters she would on election night: Putting in place a "transformation", or, at the very least, a rebranding of the Le Pen far-right party. In her concession speech, she announced plans to form a new movement, in alliance with Mr. Dupont-Aignan and others.

Revamping the FN's xenophobic ethos into a message of bringing immigration under control served as a dog whistle to far-right partisans while broadening the party's overall appeal.

Now herself a twice-divorced mother of three, she keeps her private life out of the spotlight, appearing rarely as a couple with her partner, FN vice-president Louis Aliot.

He even suggested that his granddaughter Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, 28, a Front National MP since 22, would have made a better presidential candidate. But it is a meagre base from which to build a true opposition force. In a first for modern France, the mainstream left and right parties failed to qualify for last Sunday's presidential runoff, which saw Macron handily beat Le Pen with 66 percent of the vote. It may have been a unusual way for a beaten presidential hopeful to spend the night, but this party has long-term plans.