Marine Le Pen, face of the “demonized” far right

She smoothed and softened her speech, downplayed her image, even to the point of rejecting the right-wing extremist qualification: Marine Le Pen, who is running for the top judicial office in France for the third time, is reaping the fruits of a long strategy of “de-demonization”, even if their program has not fundamentally changed, particularly in relation to immigration.

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At 53, the youngest of the three daughters of Jean-Marie Le Pen, historical and sulphurous figure of the French extreme right who is running against Emmanuel Macron in the second round of the presidential election, the chances seem much more serious than in 2017.

With 23.15% of the votes in the first round, the girl improves on her previous result (21.30% in 2017) and far exceeds that of her father – almost 17% – in 2002 against Jacques Chirac. But if the qualification of the right-wing extremists in the second ballot 20 years ago was an earthquake in political life in France, today it is almost “banal”. Fruit of the strategy patiently guided by Marine Le Pen.

The trained lawyer built up her regional presence in the north of the country, campaigned for the left for a long time, took over the presidency of Jean-Marie Le Pen’s party, the Front National, in early 2011 and gradually pushed out the old barons and patient deconstruction of what the Patriarch had built with anti-Semitic or racist speeches, sometimes condemned in court.

The FN’s “de-demonization” in 2015 went as far as the expulsion of the father, whose statements were too controversial to warrant a national victory. “I adored this man,” she says. “I fought a lot for him, but at some point it had to stop.”

The FN, with a dismal reputation, became the ‘National Rally’ in 2018 and has since campaigned using its first name, Marine, in preference to its heavily connoted surname.

After her failure in 2017 and a disastrous two-round election debate that left her unpreparedness and fever evident in Emmanuel Macron’s face, Ms Le Pen patiently recovered and polished her speech.

In another duel with Emmanuel Macron last Wednesday, she defended herself much better this time.

Basically, “national preference” has become a “national priority”, the issue of purchasing power takes precedence over migration and identity issues, leaving France is no longer officially questioned.

It blurred the lines, declared itself the “best shield” of French Jews, paid homage to Charles de Gaulle, whom the far right hated, displayed the republic and secularism as banners against “Islamist fundamentalism”, but considered Islam to be “with the Republic compatible”. “.

On the form, this mother of three, twice divorced, maintained her aggressiveness, engaged in the game of intimate television secrets, and conjured up her love for cats. She is posing as the unifying candidate for “quiet France” against an Emmanuel Macron president of “chaos”.

Initially worried about the breakthrough of another far-right candidate, Éric Zemmour, she actually took advantage of the former polemicist’s radical and outrageous speech. Rehashing her identity, anti-immigration and anti-Islam issues, Zemmour (7% in the first round) helped refocus and soften the image of Ms Le Pen, who advocates for purchasing power set in, the main concern of the French during the war in Ukraine sent prices up.

However, many analysts believe that the change is only a facade. “Her program has changed little on the fundamentals of the FN, such as immigration and national identity, but she has chosen a different vocabulary to justify it,” estimates Cécile Alduy, a specialist on the extreme right, for example.

At the migration level, his program has even “hardened” since 2010, as a recent study by the Jean Jaurès Foundation revealed.

Marine Le Pen plans to add “national priority” to the constitution in 2022, which will deprive foreigners of several benefits. Like Éric Zemmour, she also wants to expel illegal immigrants, criminals and foreign offenders, suspects of radicalization and foreigners who have been unemployed for more than a year.

She wants to enshrine the primacy of French law over international law in the constitution – which would put France in a potentially untenable position vis-à-vis Europe – and wants to criminalize the wearing of the veil in public spaces.

Internationally, Marine Le Pen has been accused by her opponents of complacency towards Putin’s Russia, although she has condemned the invasion of Ukraine. She supports the idea of ​​”anchoring Russia in Europe” so that this country “does not embrace China”. The candidate, who has forged personal ties with Russia, has also maintained close ties with so-called populist leaders in central Europe, including Viktor Orban in Hungary.

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