According to this article (also confirmed by BBC), Marine Le Pen proposes National Front changes name to National Rally:

French far-right leader Marine Le Pen has proposed her National Front party be renamed the National Rallyle Rassemblement National – in a bid to try to improve its image and to help facilitate alliances with other parties.

However, the same article mentions some somewhat negative aspects of this new name for the party:

  • close to another party's name:

(...) the echoes the new name has of the Rassemblement National Populaire (RNP), an extreme right collaborationist group set up by Marcel Déat during the German occupation of France between 1941 and 1944.

  • reduced support within the party

The idea of changing the FN’s name was approved by a narrow majority of members, with 52 per cent backing it, according to figures provided by the party.

While name change by itself makes sense ("aiming to bury the FN name that has been associated with her father Jean-Marie since he co-founded the party in 1972"), the new name does not seem a happy choice.

Question: Was any reason indicated for Marine Le Pen's choice about the party's new name?

  • A small hint: "Pour Marine Le Pen, ce nom « doit exprimer notre volonté de rassemblement. A l’heure où l’immense majorité de Français aspire à la réunion de toutes les énergies, ce nom doit être un cri de ralliement, un appel à nous rejoindre ». En savoir plus sur lemonde.fr/politique/article/2018/03/11/…" lemonde.fr/politique/article/2018/03/11/…
    – Evargalo
    Mar 12 '18 at 15:50
  • 2
    It seems it has a lot to do with Mrs Le Pen's personnal taste : rather "nation" than "patrie", not "The something"... lemonde.fr/politique/article/2018/03/11/… Otherwise French media are merely dubitative, or even mocking, about the effect of this name's change and the name chosen.
    – Evargalo
    Mar 12 '18 at 15:54

Officially she wanted something more inviting, that would a) bring people together more - Hence Rassemblement National (National Gathering) vs Front National (National Front, as in it's a war) - and b) relieve the party of the stigma associated with its name (because it is widely perceived as racist and antisemite, because of the despicable reputation of its founder and his henchmen, etc.).

Unofficially it's anyone's guess.

There was a collaborationist French party during WW2, as you already pointed out, which was called Rassemblement National Populaire. Marine Le Pen's father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, is far too smart and cultivated to not have been aware of it. (The guy oozed intellect when debating, in contrast with his daughter who oozes unsophistication. He could possibly have risen to power in the 90s or 00s had he not been a certified racist and antisemite.)

At any rate, fast forward to the 1965 presidential election. An extreme right wing lawyer then campaigned under the name Rassemblement National. Surely he was fully aware of the backstory. His campaign manager, incidentally, was no other than Jean-Marie Le Pen.

Jean-Marie Le Pen then used the name again during the 1985 and 1986 elections as has been widely reported in French press.

And that's to say nothing of the other polemic that revolves around there already being a (Gaullist) RN party around.

The point I'm trying to get at is that, there's an official reason but it certainly seems like there's some dog whistling involved too. Or maybe it's just woeful incompetence and lack of historical references among the FN/RN's current ruling team.

  • “Front National” also has a long history — there were fascist movements with that name in the 1930s, but there was also a communist resistance organization by that name during WWII. It's not just that JMLP was aware of the history: he was a teenager during the war. Mar 20 '18 at 22:11

A few elements in addition to @Denis de Bernardy's answer:

  1. Rassemblement (Rally) is common in French parties' name. For example, Wikipedia lists 22 active parties containing the word in their name. For example, the Republicans used to be called Rassemblement pour la Republique (Rally for the Republic) from 1976 to 2002.

  2. Marine Le Pen quite successfully used the word Rassemblement in the past. She branded the name Rassemblement Bleu Marine (Navy Blue Rally, a word play on her name) during local and national elections when she was at the head of the Front National. Many candidates for local elections campaigned under that name in place of putting the Front National name on their flyer, as it was meant to be a departure from the bad image of the party and a sign of renewal and modernism.

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