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Marine Le Pen Aligns Herself With Mainstream Onetime Rival

Nicolas Dupont-Aignan (L) and Marine Le Pen, at a joint press conference in Paris, on April 29, 2017, where Le Pen declared she would appoint Dupont-Aignan prime minister if elected.

Marine Le Pen, France's far-right presidential candidate, said she would name former rival, Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, as her prime minister if she wins the May 7 election.

The two appeared together at a news conference in Paris, Saturday. "We will form a government of national unity that brings together people chosen for their competence and their love of France," Le Pen said, as quoted by Reuters.

A day earlier, the interim leader of Le Pen's National Front party stepped down over controversial comments about the Holocaust. Jean-François Jalkh had only had the job for three days.

Also on Friday, Dupont-Aignan announced his endorsement of Le Pen. As NPR's Eleanor Beardsley reports, it is the first time a mainstream party has aligned itself with the far-right group.

Le Pen has been seeking to de-demonize the National Front, by drawing in more young people and women. Her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, known for anti-Semitism and xenophobia, founded the party and led it until his daughter replaced him in 2011 and later kicked him out. The two no longer speak.

DuPont-Aignan is with the right wing party "Stand Up France," and said Saturday, he does not consider Le Pen an extreme right candidate. The New York Times reports, the two politicians share numerous views, including a Euroskepticism and a hardline approach to security. That stands in contrast to Le Pen's opponent, Emmanuel Macron, a 39-year-old centrist who is pro-European Union and a fierce defender of immigration.

DuPont-Aignan lost the first round of the election with less than five percent of the vote, but he will presumably bring those near 2 million voters to Le Pen's side on election day.

Polls have shown Macron leading in the race, but Le Pen has been gaining ground.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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