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How did the French far right polish its image?

How did the French far right polish its image?

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Thursday 27 June 202405:08 pm
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The results of the European elections announced last week placed the far-right National Rally (RN) party at the forefront of the French political scene and the winning parties in France. In response, President Emmanuel Macron delivered a tense televised speech, announcing the dissolution of the French parliament. This unexpected decision stunned all political factions in France, including members of Macron's own Renaissance movement (RE).

President Emmanuel Macron delivered a tense televised speech, announcing the dissolution of the French parliament. This unexpected decision stunned all political factions in France, including members of Macron's own Renaissance movement (RE).

Immediately following Macron's announcement, the French political scene erupted. The left-wing parties, under the pressure of street demonstrations demanding their unity, met. Within a day, they announced the formation of the Popular Front, uniting their factions and criticizing the short timeframe given by the president to organize and select candidates.

Many leftists viewed the deadline set before the election on the 30th of this month as the shortest in history to prepare an electoral campaign. Meanwhile, the National Rally (RN) party, with its list headed by Jordan Bardella, seemed comfortable with the president’s decision, buoyed by their recent victory in the European elections. However, the surprises continued in the right-wing camp. Republican Party leader Éric Ciotti announced an alliance with the National Rally, prompting party members to publicly state that this alliance had not been discussed internally and to call for Ciotti's expulsion.

"How did the National Rally achieve a 30% voting share while failing to win a seat in the European Parliament until 1984?"

Additionally, Marion Maréchal, Marine Le Pen's niece, who had allied with Éric Zemmour in the European elections and headed his party's list, announced her withdrawal from the alliance with Zemmour, despite their unexpected success in winning seats in the European Parliament.

Given these circumstances, predicting the outcome of the upcoming urgent parliamentary elections is challenging. However, most analysts expect the far-right to gain more seats, while Macron’s Renaissance party and the centrist bloc may see a decline, as it is evident that President Macron is relying on convincing voters to support them to secure a majority.

But the question that arises is: "How did the National Rally achieve a 30% voting share while failing to win a seat in the European Parliament until 1984?"

Efforts to rebrand or "wash the extreme right" began in order to change the entrenched image of their political movement in the minds of many. It seems that Marine Le Pen realized that this image would keep her movement on the margins of the political scene in a republic that had built its history on a long-term socialist struggle for social justice.

I believe there are two fundamental answers to this question. Firstly, it relates to the constantly deteriorating living conditions, and secondly, it necessitates a change in the image that the party has worked on since the beginning of the current millennium.

Efforts to rebrand or "wash the extreme right" began in order to change the entrenched image of their political movement in the minds of many. In 2018, the National Front changed its name to the National Rally, and in 2021, Jordan Bardella was elected president of the party instead of Marine Le Pen, who bears the name as the daughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen, a longtime leader of the far-right throughout the history of this family.

The image of the far-right was initially associated with a history of collaboration with the Vichy government under General Petain during World War II, and consequently a collaboration with Nazism, as well as a discourse hostile to the other, hateful of immigrants and Jews, while advocating for isolationism and separation from the surroundings.

Gradually, the National Rally abandoned central ideas, such as the notion of leaving the European Union and abandoning the euro currency, and no longer mentions the slogan "Frexit", the French equivalent of the British Brexit

It seems that Marine Le Pen realized that this image would keep her movement on the margins of the political scene in a republic that had built its history on a long-term socialist struggle for social justice.

Gradually, the National Rally abandoned central ideas, such as the notion of leaving the European Union and abandoning the euro currency. Since the European Parliament elections in 2014, they no longer promote the slogan "Frexit", the French equivalent of Brexit, and instead began proposing slogans for reforming the European Union from within.

Marine Le Pen herself changed her approach, evident in the differences between her presidential campaigns in 2017 and 2022. The change did not just affect her ideas, which began to curb her extremism, became more restrained, and expressed with moderation, but also extended to her tone of voice and body language in dialogue. It's worth noting that the emergence of Éric Zemmour to her right made listeners perceive Le Pen's speeches as much more moderate compared to Zemmour's extreme rhetoric, which often borders on the absurd.

Marine Le Pen herself changed her approach, evident in the differences between her presidential campaigns in 2017 and 2022. The change did not just affect her ideas, which were expressed with moderation, but also extended to her tone of voice and body language. Also, the emergence of Éric Zemmour to her right made listeners perceive Le Pen's speeches as much more moderate compared to Zemmour's extreme rhetoric, which often borders on the absurd

In addition to the image makeover campaign, the appearance of Jordan Bardella as an alternative to lead the movement played a significant role. He is a young, charismatic figure widely accepted among youth demographics compared to older leaders of other parties.

Bardella also possesses a clear presence and influence on social media networks. He successfully attracted a youthful demographic previously divided between abstaining from voting and leaning towards far-left parties.

The National Rally's rhetoric and electoral campaigns hinge on a fundamental issue concerning today's French citizens: the purchasing power of the citizen. The party links this issue with the current government's stance on the Ukraine war, the aid directed to support Ukrainian resistance, and stringent environmental measures. They argue that once in power, energy and fuel prices will drastically decrease. They also connect the economic distress felt by the French with the influx of refugees and migrants into France, claiming that halting refugee intake and cutting aid to newcomers will immediately improve French citizens' lives.

The far-right delivers its ideas through a populist rhetoric that is easy to understand, targeting rural areas and positioning itself as the voice of workers and farmers who historically constituted the core of leftist struggles in the country. Interestingly, while this strategy has succeeded in rural areas, it has failed in major cities, which tend to favor more elite-focused political discourse and long-term strategies

The far-right delivers its ideas through a populist rhetoric that is easy to understand, targeting rural areas and positioning itself as the voice of workers and farmers who historically constituted the core of leftist struggles in the country. Interestingly, while this strategy has succeeded in rural areas, it has failed in major cities, where other political forces are concentrated. These urban areas tend to favor more elite-focused political discourse, long-term strategies, and responses backed by data and evidence.

Today, it seems that the primary success of the far-right lies in the fact that French voters no longer feel ashamed to support them as they once did. With the party's widespread presence across the country, it has become unacceptable to label all its voters as fascists and racists. Perhaps the party's major victory is its ability to highlight the failure of centrist policies in convincing French voters, who voted for Macron twice in the presidential elections to prevent Le Pen from coming to power, while the influence of leftist currents has waned in rural and remote areas.

It seems that the primary success of the far-right lies in the fact that French voters no longer feel ashamed to support them as they once did. With the party's widespread presence across the country, it has become unacceptable to label all its voters as fascists and racists

As the French political scene continues to evolve this month and into the next, a potential government reshuffle might occur just before the upcoming Olympic Games. Regardless, the parliamentary elections are unlikely to provide answers to the prevailing political anxiety and instability. Instead, they may mark the beginning of further complications and confusion.


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