Why Marine Le Pen Turned on Her Right-Hand Man

Marine Le Pen, the leader of France's National Front, makes a speech in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, November 25, 2015
Marine Le Pen, the leader of France’s National Front, makes a speech in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, November 25, 2015 (European Parliament)

Florian Philippot’s ouster from the National Front makes political sense.

Philippot was for years Marine Le Pen’s right-hand man. Together they transformed the reactionary party, which has deep roots in the French Algerian exile community, into a broad Euroskeptic and nativist force that could appeal to rust-belt voters.

They de-demonized the National Front. Le Pen won 34 percent support in this year’s presidential election, doubling her father’s record from fifteen years ago.

But it still wasn’t enough. Read more

National Front Has Most to Gain from Becoming Conservative

Marine Le Pen, the leader of France's National Front, listens to a news conference in Brussels, June 16, 2015
Marine Le Pen, the leader of France’s 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, the leader of France’s National Front, 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, the leader of France's National Front, makes a speech in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, October 26, 2016
Marine Le Pen, the leader of France’s 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