Far-right leader makes TIME's 'most influential' list
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The appearance of far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen on TIME magazine’s list of the world’s 100 most influential people has taken the French by surprise.
Without question, this has been Marine Le Pen’s best year yet. Since being elected to replace her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, as the head of the far-right National Front in January, she has led the party to strong gains in local elections and consistently found herself at the top of opinion polls ahead of next year’s presidential vote.
She turned heads once again on Thursday by appearing on TIME magazine’s list of the world’s 100 most influential people.
It was a surprise among her party members, too. The nationalist agenda of the National Front seldom turns its attention abroad, and its few foreign policy proposals have included such unilateralist moves as dumping the common European currency and ending France’s membership in NATO. But making the prestigious American magazine’s list was a welcome announcement nonetheless.
“It’s a nice surprise,” said Steeve Briois, the party’s secretary general, who is busier than ever organising Le Pen’s 2012 election campaign. “It is incontestable proof of her credibility as a leader … and that she symbolises an ideology that is widespread in France.”
Writing about Le Pen for TIME, Vladimir Volfovich Zhirinovsky, a right-wing Russian politician, said that “everything is coming into alignment” for her. Eric Pape, an American journalist based in Paris, agreed that Le Pen is experiencing a sudden rise in influence at home. “This is her moment,” said Pape, who writes for several US publications.
Le Pen indeed comes across as more modern and less divisive than her father, steering clear of the kind of anti-Semitic statements that once made him infamous. She has also fanned the flames of anti-establishment feeling among the French and cashed in on the general discontent with President Nicolas Sarkozy.
However, Pape thinks that Le Pen’s place on TIME’s “most influential” list has more to do with her status as a relative unknown outside of France and the shock power she inherited from her firebrand father.
“TIME wants to 'discover' people, the people you will hear about in the future," he said. "It wants to make these lists provocative – and Le Pen is a master of provocation."
Three other French nationals secured a spot on this year’s TIME list. They include President Sarkozy, who has helped lead the international military intervention in Libya, longtime European Central Bank chief Jean-Claude Trichet and an award-winning economist at MIT, Esther Duflo.
The long-term impact of making the "TIME 100" remains questionable. None of the French who made the list in 2010 were back for an encore appearance this year. So for now, Marine Le Pen can relish her newfound popularity in France – and now abroad. But there is no guarantee that she’ll make the cut next year.