National Front Has Most to Gain from Becoming Conservative

Marine Le Pen, leader of the French National Front, listens to a news conference in Brussels, June 16, 2015
Marine Le Pen, leader of the French National Front, listens to a news conference in Brussels, June 16, 2015 (European Parliament)

France’s National Front will have to reinvent itself after a disappointing election result on Sunday.

The nationalists were hoping to get 40 percent support or more in the presidential runoff, but Marine Le Pen got stuck at 34 percent. Still double her father’s performance when he qualified for the second voting round in 2002, but a letdown nonetheless.

In her concession speech, Le Pen promised voters “profound reform” of her party in order to create “a new political force” for all French “patriots” who oppose the globalism of Emmanuel Macron, the incoming president.

Whether this means starting a new party or rebranding the National Front remains to be seen, but change is in the air. With it could come a struggle for the movement’s identity. Read more

French National Front Could Emerge Stronger from Defeat

Marine Le Pen, leader of France's Front national, listens to a debate in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, July 1, 2014
Marine Le Pen, leader of France’s Front national, listens to a debate in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, July 1, 2014 (Wikimedia Commons/Claude Truong-Ngoc)

From a European point of view, the French have avoided the nightmare outcome of a presidential runoff between Jean-Luc Mélenchon and Marine Le Pen. But Europe’s political elite should not celebrate too soon.

It is more than probable that Emmanuel Macron will beat Le Pen in the second voting round, yet this might be the best possible outcome for the leader of the National Front.

As Donald Trump is discovering in America, it is often more fun to be the populist outsider than to be in power. A President Le Pen would have limited scope for causing foreign-policy chaos, but, with a massive majority against her in the National Assembly, she would have little prospect of delivering on her electoral promises. Her administration would almost certainly end in failure and the Front National would once again be relegated to the fringes of French politics. Read more

The Programs of France’s Presidential Candidates Compared

Polls suggest five candidates stand a chance of qualifying for the crucial second voting round in France’s presidential election next month.

They range from the far left to the far right, but a look at their policies suggests that these categories may have outlived their usefulness. Read more

Neither Macron Nor Le Pen May Win Legislative Majority

The sun sets on the Bourbon Palace, seat of the French National Assembly, in Paris, June 8, 2007
The sun sets on the Bourbon Palace, seat of the French National Assembly, in Paris, June 8, 2007 (jrrosenberg)

Neither of the two frontrunners in the French presidential election is likely to win a majority in the National Assembly, which would make it hard for them to govern.

The centrist Emmanuel Macron and the far-right Marine Le Pen are neck and neck in the polls for the first voting round this month. Macron is expected to prevail in the second round. Read more

The Forces Shaping the French Election: Populism, Pride and Prejudice

Marine Le Pen, leader of the French National Front, makes a speech in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, October 26, 2016
Marine Le Pen, leader of the French National Front, makes a speech in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, October 26, 2016 (European Parliament)

And why is it so critical? Nothing less than the European Union is at stake — and with it, the geopolitical contract that has bound Germany and France together since World War II.

After the defeat of anti-Islam populist Geert Wilders early this month in the Netherlands, it is reasonable to ask if populism as shaped by the alt-right has hit its limit. Europeans have watched the confusion in Britain over Brexit and the rise of Donald Trump. Now they are revisiting both their Euroskepticism and their willingness to gamble on ideologies not yet fully tested.

Yet France is subject to powerful forces quite different than the Netherlands, which has only a fraction of its population and international obligations. A large, unassimilated Muslim and African population simmers; an aging, conservative voter base roils; a discredited, weakened left wavers; and nobody knows what to do with the neoliberal threads that hold together the European Union yet impoverish just about anyone not in the upper classes. Read more

The Global History of the Alt-Right

Marine and Jean-Marie Le Pen, May 1, 2009
Marine and Jean-Marie Le Pen, May 1, 2009 (Laurent Garric)

When I was a teenager, I had to drive my older brother to downtown Phoenix. He couldn’t drive himself; he’d made a series of poor life choices, so it fell to me, the relatively responsible one, to ferry him about.

As we drove, he ranted to me about blacks, Mexicans and Jews, using all the tried and true tropes of the traditional white-supremacist right — tossing in, for my “education,” that the Bible had given blacks over to whites as slave-animals. When we pulled up to our destination, a Mexican guy was hanging out on the Phoenix equivalent of a stoop; my brother would have to pass by the guy. I asked him, in that teenaged point-blank manner, what he thought of the man.

“Oh no,” my brother replied. “He’s one of the good ones.” Switching off from racist extraordinaire, he proceeded to carry out his errand and have a light, polite chat with the very man whose race he’d spent much of our journey together trashing.

It was my first encounter with the doublethink that would swirl to become the alt-right. Read more

The French Far Right’s Family Feud Explained

French lawmaker Marion Maréchal-Le Pen speaks at an event in Mayenne, September 1, 2012
French lawmaker Marion Maréchal-Le Pen speaks at an event in Mayenne, September 1, 2012 (FN)

Politico reports that a long-simmering dispute between the two most prominent women of the French far right is getting out of hand.

There is even a risk of a split in the Front national, the website argues: between the faction of leader Marine Le Pen and the socially conservative wing that has rallied around her 26-year-old niece, Marion Maréchal-Le Pen.

The fact that it’s a family feud, in which the Le Pen patriarch and Vichy apologist Jean-Marie inevitably resurfaces, makes this a headline-grabbing story.

But there are deeper, geographical and political divides at play that have less to do with personality. Read more