France | The earthquake of a legitimate extreme right

(Paris) Marine Le Pen’s far-right party broke the glass ceiling in France’s general elections on Sunday, becoming the leading opposition party and gaining a legitimacy it has always lacked.

Posted at 8:44 am

Leon BRUNEAU with Anne RENAUT
Media Agency France

“There is a profound change in the relationship between the French and the Rallye National (RN)”, according to the party of Mme Le Pen, notes Jean-Daniel Lévy of the Harris Interactive Institute.

“We saw Marine Le Pen progress choice after choice in both the first and second rounds. But at this level it’s unheard of,” he told AFPTV.

The RN denied all polls that gave it 20 to 50 seats and managed a strong entry into the National Assembly, with 89 MPs elected against 8 in the previous legislature in 2017, ahead of rebellious France (LFI, left-wing opposition radicals). which won 72 seats.

The RN claims to be the “first opposition party” in the lower house of parliament and can count on a new financial stroke of luck for a party that is in debt.

With no proportional representation and no alliances, the movement gains a faction three times larger than that led by his father Jean-Marie Le Pen from 1986 to 1988 with 35 MPs.

“It’s brilliant progress,” sums up political scientist Jean-Yves Camus, with an implantation of the RN “not only in regions that are traditionally good for it” such as the north and south-east of France, but also in “very large outskirts of Paris” or “inland , deindustrialized, forgotten departments”.

spokesman for fractures

For another expert, Pascal Perrineau, “the RN is gradually becoming a party with local roots […] He has become the undisputed spokesman for social and territorial divisions,” he told Le Parisien newspaper.

The presidential finalist of 2017 and last April (41.6% of the vote), beaten twice by Emmanuel Macron, said the first “surprise” on Monday.

“It is true that we were pleasantly surprised by the mobilization of our compatriots and by this desire that immigration, insecurity, the fight against Islamism do not disappear from the National Assembly,” said Mme Le Pen, largely re-elected herself on Sunday evening in her stronghold in northern France, in Hénin-Beaumont.

She casually announced that she would not be “leading” her party to devote herself to presiding over the future RN faction in the National Assembly.

The movement didn’t wait long to demonstrate its new ambitions, claiming the presidency of the assembly’s powerful Finance Committee. The position, which is also claimed by the left, has traditionally returned to the largest opposition group since 2007.

A symbolic question, it is an elected official of the RN, José Gonzalez, 79 years old and eldest, who will open the new legislature on Tuesday, June 28th.

“demonization”

On the ideological front, Marine Le Pen has shed anti-Semitic slips and the legacy of her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, who turns 94 on Monday: she has transformed the movement, relentlessly refurbished the party’s image, including transforming the party name and combines social issues with the usual topics of immigration and security in his discourse.

In doing so, she broke the “republican front” that had allowed France to block the now trivialized extreme right for decades.

For Gilles Ivaldi, specialist in the economic program of the RN at the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) on Radio Franceinfo, there are three explanations: an RN campaign “discreet and clandestine, but on an issue that was at the center of concern the French : purchasing power”, a “never more effective strategy of demonizing the RN” and executives “who have managed to anchor themselves locally”.

“It is the result of a very long foundation with elected representatives of the Marine Le Pen generation who came for her and through her, but also with people who have been campaigning for a very long time,” says Jean-Yves Camus.

He also notes that popular categories see Emmanuel Macron as the advocate of “globalism” or the “perpetrator of globalization” whose victims they see themselves.

As Steven Forti points out in Le Grand Continent magazine, this phenomenon of legitimizing the extreme right should be emphasized at the European level.

“Today it is clear that the extreme right has achieved the first goal: it has normalized and disempowered itself, it has at least partially won the cultural battle and it is ultra-righting the public debate. This is already a reality in all Western countries,” he writes.

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