(Repeats without changes item issued on April 14)
* Election graphic tmsnrt.rs/2jLwO20
By Leigh Thomas and Simon Carraud
PARIS, April 14 Marine Le Pen has brought the
National Front from fringe status into the political spotlight
and made herself a real contender to be France's first woman
president and its first far-right leader since World War Two.
Since taking the helm in 2011, Le Pen has sought to rid the
party of the anti-Semitic image it acquired under the nearly
40-year leadership of her father, ex-paratrooper Jean-Marie Le
The twice-divorced mother of three has positioned the party
instead as an anti-immigrant, Eurosceptic force offering
protectionist policies to shelter French workers from
Polls have consistently shown Le Pen as one of the
favourites to get through the April 23 first round and contest
the May 7 runoff.
That would be a step further than her first attempt in 2012,
when she failed to reach the second round, and equal the
achievement of her father, who reached the second round in 2002,
only to lose by a landslide to conservative Jacques Chirac.
While polls suggest the younger Le Pen would also lose in
the run-off, they point to a much closer fight this time.
A strong performance by a candidate who wants a referendum
on France's membership of the European Union could unnerve
financial markets, worried by the prospect of another upset
after Britons voted to leave the EU last year.
With her trademark gravelly voice, the 48-year-old never
hesitates to lock horns with journalists or rivals on televised
debates as she takes on the political establishment.
Her plans to ditch the euro and force the French central
bank to fund state spending remain deeply unorthodox although
she says her economic policies are more in tune with the
anti-globalisation sentiment that propelled Donald Trump to the
White House and fuelled Britain's Brexit vote last year.
Le Pen pursued the softer image even at the expense of her
relationship with her father, disowning his comments that Nazi
gas chambers were a "detail" of history. She had him expelled
from the party over his views in 2015.
But she too has shown she can touch a raw nerve, provoking
outrage this month when she denied the French state's
responsibility in the German-ordered roundup of 13,000 Jews by
French police in Paris during World War Two.
Lenders have refused to bankroll her run for the presidency,
putting her at a financial disadvantage to other candidates.
The former lawyer is also under investigation over the
alleged misuse of EU funds to pay party assistants and for
tweeting pictures of Islamic State violence.
She says these are politically motivated attempts to derail
her presidential bid.
Le Pen is an admirer of Russian President Vladimir Putin,
who granted her an audience in the Kremlin in March.
She entered politics by joining her father's party at 18 in
In 1998, she abandoned her law career to provide legal
advice to the party and was first elected to political office in
1998 as a regional councillor in northern France.
She later had the same role in the Paris region before
returning to the northern rust belt in 2010. She has also been a
member of the European Parliament since 2004.
Living and breathing politics from her youngest years, Le
Pen has said her childhood was deeply marked by the explosion of
a bomb that destroyed the family apartment when she was eight
years old in an incident that remains unsolved.
(Reporting by Leigh Thomas and Simon Carraud; Editing by Adrian