Le Pen announces run for French regional polls
Far-right French leader Marine Le Pen announced Tuesday she would compete in regional elections due later this year considered a key test ahead of presidential polls in 2017.
"I am throwing myself into the fight for the regionals here in Nord-Pas-de-Calais/Picardie," she said, referring to the northeastern region where she will top her National Front party's list.
"Our region is hit by all the country's problems, even more strongly than the rest of the country," Le Pen told a gathering of 300 supporters at a hotel in the town of Arras.
Her anti-EU, anti-immigration party is topping polls ahead of December's regional elections, riding a wave that saw it take a quarter of votes in recent European and local polls, and which Le Pen hopes can propel her to the presidency in 2017.
The National Front has seen a surge of support in recent years in the northeast, a former mining region with some of France's highest unemployment levels.
Le Pen, 46, said mainstream politics had turned the region, once a bastion of the left, into "a territory of great misery, poverty and de-industrialisation".
She also said the port town of Calais had become "a nightmare" due to the thousands of migrants camped out in miserable conditions in the hope of smuggling their way to Britain.
The National Front's upward trajectory has been hit in recent weeks by a dramatic and embarrassing family feud between Le Pen and her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, who founded the party.
The elder Le Pen has been seen as an increasing liability for the party in its efforts to clean up its traditional anti-Semitic, racist image.
Recent comments in which the 86-year-old once again downplayed the Holocaust were the final straw, and he was kicked out of the party -- a decision he is now contesting in court.
His daughter had better success in Brussels this month, becoming leader of a new European parliamentary group of far-right, anti-EU parties.
© 2015 AFP