Marine Le Pen's hand strengthened in France for 2017
Marine Le Pen (45) took over the Front National (FN) her father founded in 2011 and today hopes a strong showing in European elections will turn the party into the most powerful anti-EU and immigration force on the continent.
Her rabble-rousing father Jean-Marie once predicted a bright future for Marine, the youngest of his three daughters, by describing her as "a big, healthy, blonde girl, an ideal physical specimen".
Her detractors later nicknamed her "the clone" or "la peste blonde" – the blonde plague – a play on words with the Black Death and "la peste brune", a reference to the occupying Nazi troops and their brown shirts.
But today, the 45-year-old claims to have detoxified the FN, taken the "extreme" out of extreme-Right and succeeded in forcing her anti-European, anti-euro and anti-immigration agenda on to the French and EU political mainstream.
When asked what was the most formative moment of her childhood, she once said, "20 kilos of dynamite". In 1976, when she was eight years old, a bomb tore off the front of the family's apartment block in Paris while they were asleep. "I realised politics could cost you your life," she said.
In the raspy voice of the chain smoker, Ms Le Pen has a habit of referring to the ruling Socialist Party and opposition centre-Right UMP as "UMPS" – a single political entity that has monopolised French politics with the same failed immigration, EU and economic policies for decades.
The twice-divorced mother of three faces stiff opposition for the title of Europe's anti-hero from Nigel Farage, head of the UK Independence Party, who wants nothing to do with the FN as he insists it remains tainted by racism and anti-Semitism. She claims they have far more in common than he would like to admit.
Pole position in European elections will bolster Ms Le Pen's claim that the FN is now "the first party in France" and will strengthen her hand ahead of presidential elections in 2017.
On the EU, Ms Le Pen has stated her aim as to make it "collapse" by bringing down the "Berlin wall of Brussels".
Hoping to win up to 20 seats up from her current three, Ms Le Pen plans to forge an EU parliamentary group called the European Freedom Alliance with the Dutch Freedom Party, or PVV, along with the Austrian Freedom Party, Belgian Vlaams Belang, Italian Lega Nord, Slovak National Party and Sweden Democrats. (© Daily Telegraph, London)