analysis | How the bold far-right is changing French politics

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There was only one far-right government in France during the dark years of Nazi occupation during World War II. Its sluggish association with periods of national catastrophe limited the extreme conservative groups to the periphery of politics for the rest of the 20th century. Now they are making a comeback by taking advantage of economic instability to spread stories of a proud nation in decline surrounded by extraterrestrial culture. In the presidential election in April, far-right figures received the most votes since the establishment of the Fifth Republic in 1958, and mainstream politicians also began to accept some remarks.

1. What is the French Far Right?

The term encompasses various populist groups that have come and gone since the late 19th century. They promote conservative values ​​and tend to favor strict enforcement of law and order. Some are monarchical and traditionalist Catholics, and many hold extreme, racist and anti-Semitic views. Right-wing rebel paramilitaries fought against Algerian independence in the early 1960s and carried out attacks that killed hundreds. Today’s most successful far-right party is the National Rally, founded in 1972 by the National Front, which Jean-Marie Le Pen led for nearly 40 years before being replaced by his daughter Marine.

2. Who are the main players?

A former French paratrooper during the Algerian Wars, Le Pen was convicted of racism and anti-Semitism, claiming that the Nazi gas chambers were once “a detail” of history. He has run for president four times and lost only once to Jacques Chirac in the 2002 runoff. Marine Le Pen took over in 2011 and began to weaken the party’s image, changing her name and later ousting her father from the movement. She ran for president three times and reached the finals twice. Often described as a rising star on the far left, her nephew Marion Marechal defected from her aunt’s camp in March and is now vice president of Reconquest, a new group led by author and media expert Eric Zemmour convicted of hate speech. It has sparked controversy with comments that appear to deny the basic facts of the Holocaust.

3. What is their policy?

National rallies want to end immigration and asylum, ban foreign families from joining France and deport undocumented immigrants. Zemmour has called for the deportation of one million illegal immigrants and foreigners suspected of committing a crime or of sympathizing with terrorism. He called for a ban on Muslim names, Islamic veils and mosque minarets, and said Muslims should renounce their beliefs and beliefs as they were deemed incompatible with the values ​​of the French Republic. The far-right want stronger legal protections for police officers charged with violence, halt European Union integration and re-enforce border controls. Le Pen said France should leave NATO’s unified headquarters, a structure described as the “backbone” of its military alliance.

4. How close is she to the presidency?

Ahead of his third run for the presidency in April, Le Pen dropped his explicit promise to withdraw his dual citizenship ban and pull France out of the EU. She wooed her young voters by promising her tax cuts and tried to soften her own image. She shared her personal story about her life as a single mother of three children. After voting right behind incumbent President Emmanuel Macron as part of her 2022 campaign, she received around 41% of the vote in the second runoff, an improvement from 34% in 2017.

5. Is the far right influencing mainstream politics?

Shocked by the election successes of Le Pen, Zemmour and far-left brand Jean-Luc Melenchon, Macron doubled his promise to improve living standards and household purchasing power. He also sharply reduced the number of visas granted to citizens of Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia. Ideas from the far right became a dominant theme within the traditional center-right Republican Party. Even some left-wing figures like Arnaud Montebourg said things that were unthinkable in his political arena just a few years ago. Monteburg has proposed blocking cash transfers to countries that refuse to repatriate undocumented citizens held in France, an idea the far-right has long defended.

6. Who are the new far-right voters?

The decline of France’s old established political parties has resulted in more voters with far-left and far-right support. Le Pen’s promises to reverse the decline in living standards and raise wages have found a receptive audience in impoverished rural areas during the presidential election. Zemmour used a slick social media strategy to lure the wealthy and young, pushing for so-called substitution theory. This theory asserts that white, Christian Europeans are being replaced by Muslim immigrants who seek to change their culture from within. The sense of existential threat has sharpened over the past decade with a series of deadly attacks by Islamic militants.

7. What is their slogan?

Marine Le Pen softens her father’s cries of “France for the French” and “The French First” with “France we love” I did. Her supporters shout “this is our home” at the rally. Some far-right metaphors have permeated mainstream politics. The notion of “extinction,” the idea that the country is becoming barbaric, shocked voters astonished by crime rates in areas with high immigrant populations. In 2020, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, who oversees police, crossed the line, saying, “Personally, I use the word ambition and repeat it.”

• London School of Economics blog on the dangers of extremist-dominated 2027 presidential election.

• Bloomberg QuickTakes discuss Zemmour’s rise, street protests and the Yellow Vests phenomenon during Macron’s tenure.

• Foreign Policy asks “Is Marine Le Pen a fascist?”

• Post-election analysis of the Atlantic Ocean.

• A Bloomberg Opinion Midterm Election Editorial on the Risks of Le Pen’s Presidency and a column on the setbacks of the uninspiring French elections and political abstinence.

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