PARIS (AP) — As it stands on the threshold of power in France, the far-right National Rally is facing scrutiny about some of the candidates it hopes will secure a ruling majority for the party in legislative elections on Sunday, including a woman it has now pulled from the high-stakes race over a photo of her wearing a World War II-era Nazi officer’s peaked cap.

Other National Rally candidates whose suitability is being questioned by the party’s critics and opponents include a woman said by French media to have once held a town employee hostage at gunpoint, a man who may not be eligible to serve as a lawmaker because he is under guardianship, a candidate in Brittany who tweeted that “gas brought justice to the victims of the Shoah” and others facing questions about their absences on the campaign trail.

Digging into candidates’ backgrounds by French media and citizens online risks puncturing the polished image that National Rally leader and three-time presidential candidate Marine Le Pen has sought to craft of her party to shed its historical links to antisemitism, racism, and France’s painful WWII collaboration with the Nazi occupation.

It also has raised questions about the party’s readiness to wield power if it secures an absolute majority in Sunday’s second-round vote to determine the makeup of the 577-seat National Assembly, which would give Le Pen the leverage to force President Emmanuel Macron to accept her 28-year-old protege, Jordan Bardella, as prime minister. French political analysts say the party’s electoral machine has struggled to keep pace with its surge in voter support, including finding and vetting candidates to represent it.

This flash campaign proved particularly difficult for all parties, with only three weeks to prepare. Macron called the surprise legislative election on June 9 after his centrist alliance suffered a punishing defeat at the hands of the National Rally in French voting for the European Parliament.

“They tend to take what they have at hand, even if it means not paying attention,” said far-right expert Jean-Yves Camus, a researcher with the Institute of International and Strategic Relations.

“There is the top of the basket, but there is also the bottom of the basket, with candidates who are often embarrassing for them.”

In Mayenne, northwestern France, citizens dug up and shared a press cutting from regional newspaper Ouest-France reporting in 1995 that National Rally candidate Annie Bell, then using the surname Jaccoud, had taken a mayoral employee hostage for several hours. The newspaper said she was heavily indebted, entered her local town hall armed with a rifle and took a secretary hostage. ​A shot was fired, but nobody was injured, the newspaper reported. Bell advanced from the first round of voting last Sunday to the decisive round two this coming weekend.

The cutting, shared online, was picked up by several outlets, including Ouest-France. It is unclear whether she was ever convicted and the Associated Press could not find any contact details for her. A spokesperson for the party did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the AP.

The party’s vice president, Louis Aliot, said Wednesday it was an isolated case and that because the party has fielded hundreds of candidates, he wasn’t aware of all of their backgrounds.

“This is one of the few curiosities that there may be among all the candidates,” he said, speaking on France Info radio.

But other candidates have also come under fire.

After Ludivine Daoudi won nearly 20% of the vote in her district in round one, the National Rally announced Tuesday that it was withdrawing her from round two after a photo of her wearing a Nazi officer’s cap, with a swastika, emerged on social media.

“She does not deny that she took this photo,” Philippe Chapron, a regional National Rally representative, said in a radio interview. He stressed that the photo, “clearly in bad taste,” had been taken “a long time ago” and before Daoudi joined the party.

Candidates of other parties have also come under fire. A campaign video shared on social media by Sebastien Delogu, a lawmaker for the hard-left France Unbowed party who was re-elected in first-round vote, showed the head of Jewish lawmaker Habib Meyer next to a box of frozen pizza and an oven. Meyer said he regarded the video as antisemitic. Delogu denied that accusation. The National Rally and France Unbowed have traded accusations of antisemitism in the campaign.

Another National Rally candidate in Mayenne, Paule Veyre de Soras was asked in a video interview about critics’ allegations that the party still has xenophobes and racists in its ranks. She responded that it no longer did, adding that “I myself am Catalan, my grandfather was born in Barcelona, I have a Jew as an ophthalmologist and, as a dentist, a Muslim.”

Veyre de Soras got more than 28% of her district’s vote, setting her up to possibly become a lawmaker in round two.

In some districts, National Rally candidates didn’t include a photo of themselves or biographical information on campaign leaflets that instead just showed Le Pen and Bardella. Some National Rally candidates have been seen so rarely in the campaign that their opponents have likened them to ghosts.

In the Jura region, National Rally candidate Thierry Mosca is subject to a court-ordered limited guardianship, according to regional newspaper Le Progrès, meaning he is ineligible, if elected, to be a lawmaker. French broadcaster France 3 quoted Mosca as saying that the protection measure, which a judge can order for adults considered in difficulty and in need of help, was applied to him because he has financial problems.

Of that situation, Aliot said some candidates don’t tell the party about their judicial records “even though we ask them.”

“If they lied, they will be dismissed.”

Brought to you by