Marine Le Pen joins other European anti-immigration leaders for May Day

Former French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen joined other anti-immigration populist leaders from around Europe for a May Day gathering aimed at energising their campaigns for next year's European Parliament elections.

Populist leaders including Geert Wilders of the Dutch Party for Freedom, Harald Vilimsky of Austria's Freedom Party and prominent Czech nationalist Tomio Okamura descended on Nice as part of a joint effort to highlight the gains their parties have acquired across the continent recently.

The head of Italy's nationalist Northern League party Matteo Salvini declined his invitation but will send a video message of support - as he attempts to form join a coalition government following this year's inconclusive elections where many Italian voters shunned the mainstream parties.

Ms Le Pen laid a wreath at a monument of France's nationalist icon Joan of Arc in Cannes before heading to nearby Nice where she will meet with the other senior figures of the European far-right.

Ms Le Pen used Nice - a French Riviera hub that boasts a diverse population - to forward her anti-immigration stance, saying it has "suffered from very strong pressure from migration that has partly changed the face" of the city.

France's National Front has been struggling since a surge in support but subsequent defeat in last year's presidential election that chose centrist Emmanuel Macron.

Since then, Ms Le Pen has been trying to cleanse it of the racist stigma that has clung to its image while maintaining the party's core closed-borders agenda.

Earlier this year, the party severed its final ties with firebrand founder Jean-Marie Le Pen - Ms Le Pen's 89-year-old father - by eliminating his title of honorary president-for-life.

Mr Le Pen held a parallel ceremony at a statue of Joan of Arc in Paris.

In March, former White House strategist Steve Bannon tried to re-energise the party by speaking at a congress in France.

Some commentators warned that support from figures like Mr Bannon could hinder the party's rebranding efforts.

- PA

More in this Section

Director cancels release of film starring missing actress Fan Bingbing

Grenfell survivor had bag packed 'in defiance of stay-put advice' days before fire

Mundell ‘did not threaten to quit’ over Brexit deal

HBO brothel boss who won a Nevada State Primary, Dennis Hof, dies after days-long 72nd birthday party

Breaking Stories

Cork Film Festival launches 2018 programme of 250 films

How to make Prue Leith’s ‘almost Thai’ fish cakes

Could this be the most spiritual retreat in Vietnam?

What’s it like to stay in Richard Branson’s favourite Balearic retreat?

More From The Irish Examiner