Mossad’s investment in the Le Pen dynasty finally paying off?

Roger Auque, Mossad agent and father of Marion Maréchal

Last week Marine Le Pen and Jordan Bardella (the president of her Rassemblement National party) gave unequivocal support to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Le Pen’s niece Marion Maréchal, who next year will lead the European parliamentary election slate of a rival nationalist party Reconquête!) is an even more staunch and longstanding Zionist, saying that “France must stand unambiguously alongside Israel in this new ordeal.”

Marion Maréchal as a guest at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, in 2018

Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised, since Marion Maréchal’s real father Roger Auque was an agent of the Israeli intelligence service Mossad.

In a new article at the Real History blog, H&D‘s Peter Rushton examines the strange connections between the Le Pen dynasty and Mossad.

French nationalists forge ahead: Macron’s project in crisis

‘Centrist’ French President Emmanuel Macron – the ultimate Rothschild / Goldman Sachs politician – was lionised by international liberal journalists when he defeated nationalist candidate Marine Le Pen in 2017 (and to a lesser extent when he won re-election last year).

But the wheels have now come off Macron’s globalist project, and French nationalists once again seem poised for power.

The immediate crisis is due to Macron’s proposals to raise the pension age, as part of a package of reforms designed to shift social and economic policies away from the traditional French ‘big state’ towards a more Anglo-American, privatised, ‘business friendly’ model. Having failed to win a majority at last year’s parliamentary elections, Macron has opted to bypass the National Assembly and impose his new policy by presidential decree. This approach – reminiscent of the most chaotic years of Germany’s Weimar Republic – has understandably inflamed violent street protests.

The Le Pen dynasty whose family drama has dominated French nationalism for decades. (above left to right) Jean-Marie Le Pen, founder of the Front National, now 94 years old and hospitalised after a heart attack last weekend; his granddaughter Marion Maréchal, now associated with the dissident nationalist party Reconquête; and his daughter Marine Le Pen, leader of the rebranded FN now known as Rassemblement National.

Both the traditional left and Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National have strongly resisted these moves and present themselves as champions of French workers. Le Pen has for more than a decade succeeded in realigning her party (founded as the Front National by her father Jean-Marie Le Pen) towards what some would regard as more ‘left-wing’ economic policies.

Meanwhile Le Pen’s rival Éric Zemmour is pitching for a very different vote. His party Reconquête is more hardline on racial questions and less squeamish than Le Pen on issues related to French history, such as the legacy of Marshal Philippe Pétain’s wartime government at Vichy. Perhaps because Zemmour is Jewish, he has an ‘alibi’ that allows him to be relatively frank about Second World War history and more tolerant of semi-revisionist positions, from which Le Pen (unlike her father) is desperate to dissociate herself.

More directly relevant to most French voters, however, is Zemmour’s far more conservative stance on economic questions, where Reconquête is much closer to the Anglo-American mainstream right and pitches for middle-class voters, competing with the declining French conservative party (now rebranded as ‘Republicans’). Zemmour’s allies present his party as the only real voice of the ‘right’ in French politics.

In the most recent opinion polls, Zemmour is backed by 6-7% of the electorate (about the same as his 7.1% at last April’s presidential election), while Le Pen would lead a hypothetical first round with 30-33%, a significant advance on her 23.2% last year. Le Pen is well ahead of Macron’s likely successors as ‘centrist’ candidate, who would take 23-24% in the first round and compete with the far-left for the privilege of facing Le Pen in a second round run-off. (Macron himself is constitutionally barred from standing for a third term.)

In a legislative election, Le Pen’s RN would compete with the far-left, polling roughly 26% each, ahead of the President’s party on 22%. An alliance of the Republicans and other conservative parties is presently polling only 10-11%; while Reconquête polls slightly under 5%, as do dissident elements of the once-mighty Socialist Party who refuse to ally with the far-left. This is an obvious recipe for continued stalemate in the National Assembly, even if another ‘centrist’ President succeeded Macron.

Le Pen’s rival Éric Zemmour

Zemmour will turn 65 in August, and would be almost 69 at the next scheduled presidential election in 2027. The main far-left leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon is seven years older than Zemmour, and even Marine Le Pen (a decade younger than Zemmour) is seen by some French nationalists as only having one more credible shot at the presidency.

Given the strange dynastic pattern of French nationalism, the future of the movement might still belong to Marine’s niece Marion Maréchal, who is allied to Zemmour. To be a credible leader and future presidential candidate, Maréchal will have to transcend bitter rivalries (including a personal split with her aunt); bridge the gap between the RN’s economic interventionism and Reconquête’s pro-capitalist stance; continue to present racially conscious nationalism as serious and electable; and escape the taint of Putinism that caused serious damage to Zemmour’s campaign last year.

This might seem a tough proposition, but the crises and contradictions facing ‘centrist’, liberal and leftist strands in French politics are even more intractable.

Despite many obvious obstacles, the future of French politics belongs to nationalism. Jean-Marie Le Pen changed European politics when he built the Front National into a serious electoral force during the 1980s: in their different ways, his daughter and granddaughter have a genuine chance of entering the Elysée Palace as President of France.

Strong third-place for Marine Le Pen’s party in French by-election

Jean-Marc Garnier again finished a close third as RN candidate in the traditionally left-wing Ariège constituency.

Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National did well in Sunday’s by-election for one of the two seats in the National Assembly allocated to the department de l’Ariège, which is a very beautiful but rather poor and traditionally left-wing area of southern France, famous in history as the centre of the Cathar or Albigensian heresy.

The by-election was caused by irregularities in the conduct of the general election in this constituency.  The far-left candidate Bénédicte Taurine was elected at last year’s general election but has been forced to recontest the seat after the poll was quashed by the Constitutional Court. Ms Taurine represents a broad alliance of ultra-left groups which calls itself La France Insoumise (‘France Unbowed’), a title which reflects the oddly patriotic stance of French socialists who argue that economic liberalism (promoted by President Emmanuel Macron) is a betrayal of French traditions.

The RN’s vote went up by a quarter from 20% to 25% but that was not quite good enough to take RN candidate Jean-Marc Garnier into next Sunday’s second round, where the far-left’s Ms Taurine (whose first round vote slipped slightly from 33.1% to 31.2%) will run-off against a Socialist Party dissident, Martine Froger (whose vote rose from 20.0% to 26.4%, no doubt partly thanks to having her party’s name on the ballot paper this time).

François-Xavier Jossinet and the Reconquête party presented themselves as “the real Right”.

The strange situation is that last year the Le Pen candidate only missed out on the run-off by eight votes, but in this week’s by-election they were 155 votes short despite a substantial increase in their own backing. Rival nationalist party Reconquête (led by Éric Zemmour) polled 2.8% (down from 3.3% last year), but while in theory this means that a combined nationalist vote would have taken second rather than third place, no-one can be sure that the RN could have relied on Reconquête voters’ backing.

Reconquête continues to be an annoyance to Marine Le Pen. It would however be simplistic to think that the two parties’ electorates are simply interchangeable. It is noteworthy that MLP’s niece Marion Maréchal (whose credibility has been badly damaged by Reconquête‘s electoral failure, but who is still seen as the eventual successor to Zemmour and perhaps as the eventual leader of French nationalism) has severely criticised the RN for not taking steps against a RN deputy who opened a mega-mosque in his constituency funded by the Turkish government. (Le Pen did eventually condemn the deputy concerned for this ‘personal initiative’.)

At the same time Maréchal and Zemmour have more or less endorsed President Macron’s view that raising the retirement age is inevitable given the burden of pension payments on the public purse.

So, rather in contrast to the way things have usually been in the UK’s nationalist movement (broad and narrow), the French movement’s middle class supporters take a harder line on race than its working class base (as well as forming a much larger proportion of the movement’s electoral base than they do here).

Macron’s candidate polled only 10.7% (down from 20.0% last year, reflecting the challenge to the president’s authority during the pensions crisis), and as in last year’s election there was no ‘centre-right’ candidate.

The split in the nationalist vote was unfortunate, but hatred between the Socialists and the far-left will be much increased by the bitter run-off on April 2nd, regardless of who wins!

Disillusionment with the entire French political system no doubt contributed to a very low turnout of only 39.6% in the by-election’s first round, down from 56.4% last year, despite a very wide range of candidates to choose from, comprising two rival nationalists, a Trotskyist who polled 2%, plus a local independent with 2.2%, and a Macronist, as well as the two rival left-wingers who will contest the run-off.

RN chooses Le Pen’s successor

Jordan Bardella (above right) with his predecessor Marine Le Pen after he won the RN leadership earlier today.

The French nationalist party Rassemblement National (‘National Rally’) – which used to be the Front National (‘National Front’) until it was renamed in 2018, elected a new leader this weekend.

27-year-old Jordan Bardella, who had been acting as caretaker leader for the past few months, easily won the leadership election with 85% of the vote, against 15% for his rival Louis Aliot, 53-year-old Mayor of Perpignan and a vice-president of the party since the FN days.

Bardella became the third leader of the party since it was founded by Jean-Marie Le Pen half a century ago. Le Pen led the FN from 1972 until the start of 2011, and his daughter Marine has been leader of the FN/RN for the past eleven years.

Aliot – who is from an Algerian Jewish background – had called for the RN to purge all remnants of fascism, national-socialism, ‘anti-semitism’ or nostalgia for the Vichy government of Philippe Pétain. He also wanted the party to shun a more recent generation of radical ‘identitarians’, whom he labelled as extremists.

Louis Aliot (above left) was once very close to Marine Le Pen, but his 15% vote today was an emphatic rejection of his calls for the RN to purge ‘extremists’ and become a conservative-populist party.

Bardella by contrast – though very close to outgoing leader Marine Le Pen and by no means a representative of Jean-Marie Le Pen’s ‘old school’ nationalism – favours a more broadly-based party, including older ideological traditions, and is known to have friendly links to some in the historical revisionist movement, whose best known French champion was the late, great scholar Professor Robert Faurisson.

Marine Le Pen stood down from the party leadership so as to concentrate on leading the RN bloc inside the French National Assembly, where her party won an unexpectedly large number of seats in this year’s elections and is now (at parliamentary level) the strongest nationalist party in Europe.

It is expected that Le Pen and Bardella will work easily together. What is unclear for now is whether Aliot will accept his defeat (which was by an unexpectedly wide margin) or whether he will follow the logic of his campaign’s critique and break away to form a new, more ‘moderate’, conservative-populist party.

Huge gains for Le Pen as Macron government loses majority

Voting has ended across France in today’s decisive second round of elections for the National Assembly.

Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National (previously the National Front) achieved perhaps the greatest election result in the postwar history of European nationalism, advancing from eight seats in 2017 to 89 seats today.

At previous Assembly elections the two-round electoral system tended to favour ‘centrist’ candidates. The big exception was in 1986, when Socialist President François Mitterrand deliberately introduced a proportional representation system to divide the conservative vote, boosting the RN’s predecessor Front National, led by Marine Le Pen’s father Jean-Marie. The FN gained 35 seats at that 1986 election but immediately slipped back two years later when the PR system was abolished.

Today’s election reversed that usual pattern, with heavy losses for both President Macron’s party and for the French conservatives, now known as ‘Republicans’.

Le Pen’s RN won 89 seats today and will be the third-largest block in the new Assembly, where President Macron’s coalition has lost exactly a hundred seats and will be 42 seats short of a majority.

One early result was the defeat of Macron’s health minister Brigitte Bourguignon, who lost her constituency in Pas-de-Calais by just 56 votes to Le Pen’s candidate Christine Engrand.

Similarly the President of the National Assembly, Macron supporter Richard Ferrand, narrowly lost his seat in Finistère to a far-left candidate. Other members of the government losing their seats to leftists included ecology minister Amélie de Montchalin and sports minister Roxana Maracineanu (a silver medallist in swimming at the 2000 Sydney Olympics). Ms Maracineanu lost her seat in a Paris suburb to an African woman who was famous for leading a cleaners’ strike at one of the French capital’s biggest hotels.

Lame duck presidents? Emmanuel Macron (above right with Joe Biden) waves goodbye to credible government.

Exit poll projections were highly accurate in predicting excellent results for both the RN and for the left-wing coalition formed by Jean-Luc Mélenchon, which will be the main opposition in the new Assembly. This left-green coalition won 142 seats, with another thirteen won by assorted left-wingers who don’t accept Mélenchon’s leadership. Other MPs from tiny parties include the Eurosceptic Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, easily re-elected in the constituency he has represented now for 25 years, who on many issues will vote with the FN.

Today’s result is a remarkable boost for Marine Le Pen, who as recently as February seemed likely to be ousted from her leadership of French nationalism by an alliance of her niece Marion Maréchal and controversial journalist Éric Zemmour. The new Zemmour-Maréchal party Reconquête crashed out of the Assembly elections last weekend, failing to qualify for a single second-round contest, whereas Le Pen’s RN has achieved the greatest result in the history of French nationalism.

Five years ago mainstream commentators confidently predicted a new era of ‘centrism’ under Macron, but the French Fifth Republic now increasingly resembles the German Weimar Republic of 1919-1933.

The July-August edition of H&D will reflect on the progress (or otherwise) of nationalists across Europe, including these French elections as well as local elections in Italy whose second round was also held today, and an important regional election in Andalusia, southern Spain.

(NOTE: Some commentators give a figure of 88 rather than 89 RN Assembly members elected today. This is because of the ambiguous status of Marie-France Lorho, re-elected in a southern constituency based around the town of Orange. Technically, Mme Lorho was elected as a candidate of the League of the South, a tiny breakaway party founded in 2010 by former FN mayor Jacques Bompard. However while Bompard was affiliated with Zemmour this year, Mme Lorho is aligned with Marine Le Pen and can be counted as the 89th RN Assembly member.)

French nationalist divisions contrast with leftist unity as Le Pen’s party slips to third place

Posters for rival nationalist candidates in Montpellier

The first round of elections to the National Assembly yesterday delivered a sharp setback to the ‘centrist’ President Emmanuel Macron and modest advances for Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National. This follows the presidential election two months ago when Macron defeated Le Pen, despite the latter achieving the best nationalist result in postwar European history.

Le Pen’s Rassemblement National finished in third place with 18.7% of the first round vote. This compares to 13.2% at the previous Assembly election in 2017 but is well down on her 23.2% in the presidential election’s first round two months ago.

A feature of this Assembly election is that the far-left leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon has managed to rally most French socialists and greens into a united slate. This leftist slate known as NUPES finished with 25.66% – less than 0.1% behind President Macron’s slate which polled 25.75%. (The newspaper Le Monde calculated the results slightly differently, showing the NUPES slate a fraction ahead of the President’s.)

It was a bad night for both the conservative Republicans and for Marine Le Pen’s nationalist rival Éric Zemmour.

The Republicans polled just 10.4%, even worse than polls had predicted: a historic defeat for the French centre-right which raises serious questions about its future viability.

An election leaflet distributed in Bedous, close to the French border with Spain, for Margaux Taillefer, one of the leaders of the Zemmour campaign’s youth wing ‘Generation Z’. The leaflet highlights Zemmour’s alliance with Marion Maréchal.

Meanwhile Zemmour’s party Reconquête which once seemed set to overtake the RN as the main party of French nationalism polled 4.2% – less than a quarter of the RN vote. The big losers from such a dismal result are not only Zemmour himself but also his ally Marion Maréchal (Marine Le Pen’s niece) who now has much work to do if she is to re-establish herself as the future leader of French nationalism. Another significant Reconquête defeat was in Maréchal’s Provençal region Vaucluse where Stanislas Rigault – 23-year-old president of Zemmour’s youth wing ‘Generation Z’ – was a distant fourth with only 10.5%.

Maréchal was Rigault’s ‘substitute candidate’ – a French system designed to avoid National Assembly by-elections. If an Assembly members dies or quits to accept executive office, the substitute takes his place. To add insult to injury for Rigault and Maréchal, Le Pen’s candidate topped the poll and will go into next week’s second round against a pro-Macron candidate.

It seems that the Zemmour faction has recruited many of the best and brightest of young French nationalist activists, but has not convinced voters. A bad situation for the movement overall.

In his own constituency east of Toulon on the Mediterranean coast, Zemmour was knocked out in the first round after polling 23.2%, a shade behind Le Pen’s RN candidate on 24.7% and a pro-Macron candidate on 28.5%. It will be a bitter pill for Zemmour to swallow, but presumably he will endorse the Le Pen candidate in next week’s run-off, and frankly he no longer has much of a negotiating position. (Unsurprisingly the other seven Reconquête votes across Zemmour’s Var département were even worse, and all of the Var constituencies will face second round run-offs between RN and pro-government candidates.)

Another high-profile Reconquête candidate was Damien Rieu, founder of the anti-immigration youth group Generation Identity, standing in France’s most south-eastern constituency which runs from Nice to the Italian border. Rieu finished fifth with only 10.7%; his RN rival Alexandra Masson topped the poll and will go into another of the second round contests between Le Pen and Macron supporters which will be a feature of the Provence, Alpine and Côte d’Azur region next Sunday.

The crushing defeat of Stanislas Rigault (above left), president of the youth wing of Zemmour’s party, in Marion Maréchal’s home region was a blow to Ms Maréchal’s long-term ambition to lead French nationalism

By contrast Marine Le Pen easily won her home constituency in northern France, which includes the town of Hénin-Beaumont, with 54% of the vote. However due to the low turnout (which meant even this vote was only 22.5% of the electorate) she faces the formality of a run-off against the left’s candidate next week.

In all but five cases there will be a second round next Sunday, as only candidates who achieve more than 50% and more than 25% of their constituency’s electorate are elected outright in the first round. One of the very few to be elected on the first round today was far-left candidate Alexis Corbière who polled 62.9% (!) in his part of Seine – St Denis, which includes the notorious multiracial suburb of Montreuil. (This is sometime called Mali’s second-largest city, as it includes so many immigrants from the former French colony.) Nationwide a total of four leftists were elected on the first round, and one of President Macron’s ‘centrists’.

Any candidate who achieves 12.5% or more of the electorate in the first round can qualify for the second: on a low turnout election such as this one, this in practice means only the top two candidates from the first round. There will only be eight ‘triangular’, three-way contests in next week’s second round, and 564 two-way contests. Of these, 278 feature Macron’s party against the left; 110 Macron’s party against Le Pen’s RN; 62 the left against RN; 29 conservatives against RN; 29 conservatives against the left; and 22 conservatives against Macron’s party.

Former education minister Jean-Michel Blanquer was one of several ‘centrist’ technocrats backed by President Macron to be knocked out in today’s first round

The first result declared – from a constituency in the Loire Valley of central France – showed the incumbent ‘centrist’ defeated after being pushed into third place. The second round run-off in this constituency next week will be between a veteran Communist (backed by the united left-green slate) and the candidate of Marine Le Pen’s RN. The ‘centrist’ vote fell from 33.3% in 2017 to 22.6% today, and the conservative candidate was a distant fourth with 12.3%.

In another Loire Valley constituency further north, another of Macron’s candidates – former education minister and typical Parisian technocrat Jean-Michel Blanquer – was ousted, creating another run-off between the left and the RN.

Many more results such as these, and France will be approaching Weimar Republic territory! Various analysts have projected that after next week’s second round Macron’s coalition will either lose its majority in the Assembly, or have a sharply reduced majority, with the main opposition now coming from the left, but with Le Pen’s RN holding something between 20 and 45 seats, compared to just eight seats won under the old FN label in 2017.

France is roughly split into four camps, each with about a quarter of the electorate. One quarter backs the President and his ‘centrist’ allies; another backs Mélenchon’s left-green alliance; another backs a nationalist (either of the Le Pen or Zemmour stripe); and the final quarter is an assortment of folk who for various reasons do not fit into any of the above (including dissident leftists, regionalists, and various protest votes). These fringe candidates include those who (as in the UK) persist in the strange belief that there is some electoral mileage in wild conspiracy theories about the CoVID pandemic and rhetoric about ‘freedom’. Such candidates (as in the UK) achieved little more than joke votes even when they were minor celebrities: for example ‘radical’ singer-songwriter and anti-vaccination campaigner Francis Lalanne was in eighth place with 2.2% in the Charente region of south-western France.

Former President François Hollande (above right with Benjamin Netanyahu) denounced the left-green alliance for ‘anti-semitism’ and backed his own slate of ‘centre-left’, pro-Israel socialists, all of whom were heavily defeated.

Perhaps the worst humiliation was suffered by the rump of the once-powerful French Socialist Party that refused to go into Mélenchon’s left-green alliance. These sad remnants of the 1990s centre-left were endorsed by former President François Hollande, who like his contemporary Tony Blair has still not grasped that their project of business-friendly, pro-immigration, pro-New World Order social democracy has been rejected by the working-class voters they despise and by most of the younger, educated generation they once courted. Every single one of these ‘moderate’ socialists was decisively defeated in yesterday’s first round.

Bear in mind that around half of the electorate did not vote at all in the first round, despite the apparently wide ideological choice offered!

Unlike the UK, France has eleven constituencies for French citizens living abroad. The third of these is made up predominantly of French citizens living in the UK (though also including far smaller numbers living in the Baltic States, Scandinavia, Iceland and Greenland). This constituency will face a run-off between the pro-Macron candidate who polled 38.5% and the leftist alliance candidate (in this case a green) who polled 31.5%.

Unsurprisingly among this group of business folk and academics, Le Pen’s RN polled very badly indeed – only 1.7% – and was well-beaten even by Zemmour’s candidate who managed 3.5%. Pretty much the only demographics where Zemmour’s party is stronger than the RN are among very affluent nationalists and young intellectual nationalists. For example in the socially exclusive 7th arrondissement of Paris, Zemmour’s candidate polled 8.7% and Le Pen’s candidate only 3.2%.

The unfortunate situation for the French right is that such unrepresentative elite folk are not by themselves a basis for winning an election, but it’s difficult to build an effective movement without an elite cadre.

It will be up to the bitterly divided RN and Reconquête leaders to resolve this problem quickly.

Huge increase in Le Pen vote – but another defeat

Marine Le Pen conceding defeat this evening

Marine Le Pen – leader of the nationalist party Rassemblement National (formerly the National Front) –has lost the French presidential election to former banker and ‘centrist’ Emmanuel Macron by a margin of 58.5% to 41.5%.

More than 13 million French voters backed Le Pen. This is by far the strongest vote for a nationalist candidate in postwar French history – up from 33.9% (10.6 million votes) in the equivalent second round in 2017, and 17.9% (6.4 million votes) when Marine Le Pen was knocked out in the first round in 2012.

When her father and party founder Jean-Marie Le Pen reached the second round in 2002, he polled 17.8% (5.5 million votes). His daughter Marine took over as leader of the Front National in January 2011, then renamed the party as Rassemblement National (National Rally).

Nationalists in France and elsewhere will naturally be disappointed by Marine Le Pen’s third presidential defeat, and there will be much speculation as to whether she can credibly campaign for a fourth time in 2027.

The initial challenge will be to present a unified nationalist campaign at the National Assembly elections in two months’ time. As with the presidency, the two-round electoral system is weighted against nationalists, because even if they ‘win’ the first round, RN candidates tend to face a united front of liberals, leftists and ‘moderate’ conservatives in the second round.

Marine Le Pen with her father and party founder Jean-Marie Le Pen: their views of nationalist strategy eventually diverged

One of Marine Le Pen’s greatest strengths has been her ability to build RN support among working-class voters in depressed post-industrial areas such as her home constituency of Hénin-Beaumont in the northern French region of Pas-de-Calais.

However her determination to ‘dedemonise’ her party led to an obsession with avoiding allegations of ‘racism’ or ‘antisemitism’. The RN became utterly determined to remove any racial component to its nationalism, and to denounce the wartime government of Marshal Philippe Pétain (even though in his time Pétain was supported by an overwhelming majority of French citizens).

This rewriting of history and redefinition of French identity provoked many traditional French patriots this year into rejecting Marine Le Pen in favour of rival nationalist candidate Éric Zemmour. Among those to endorse Zemmour was the RN leader’s own niece Marion Maréchal, as H&D‘s Tony Paulsen explained in an article for this website.

Eventually Zemmour’s presidential campaign collapsed and he polled only 7.1% in the election’s first round two weeks ago, compared to Marine Le Pen’s 23.2%.

Marion Maréchal (above left) endorsed Éric Zemmour in the first round of this year’s presidential election. Will she be able to repair relations with her aunt Marine Le Pen? And is Marion Maréchal still the eventual successor as leader of French nationalism?

Will there now be a swing in favour of the new Zemmour / Maréchal party Réconquete? And will that party be able to strike electoral pacts with RN candidates at the Assembly elections in June?

Most critically, what will the new balance be within French nationalism? Marine Le Pen’s social nationalism aimed at repairing the extreme inequalities in post-industrial France, or Zemmour’s focus on reassuring the middle-class? Zemmour’s outspoken engagement with racial questions, or Le Pen’s multiracial civic nationalism?

H&D will focus on these and related questions in our next edition to be published early in May, and will have further analysis later in 2022 of the choices facing European nationalists.

Le Pen heads for second round run-off in French presidential battle

Marine Le Pen is contesting her third (and possibly last) presidential election, having polled 17.9% in 2012 and 21.3% in 2017

Marine Le Pen – leader of the French nationalist party Rassemblement National (‘National Rally’ formerly the Front National) is heading for a second-round showdown with the incumbent French President Emmanuel Macron, after winning the support of more than 8 million French voters, almost 500,000 more than she obtained in 2017. The second round will be in two weeks time, on April 24th.

Macron was the clear first-round winner with 27.8% (slightly better than the final opinion polls had suggested) ahead of Le Pen on 23.2%. The far-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon was in third place with 22% (well ahead of his opinion poll ratings).

Le Pen’s nationalist rival Éric Zemmour – who had won the support of Marion Maréchal, granddaughter of FN founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, and many former RN activists – had been running level with Le Pen until late February, each with about 16%, but finished in fourth place with 7.1%, ahead of the conservative candidate Valerie Pécresse who fell to a historic low of 4.8%, only just ahead of the Green candidate Yannick Jadot on 4.6%.

Both Zemmour and Pécresse fared worse than polls had predicted. Since February’s opinion polls, Mélenchon has doubled his vote, while Zemmour’s vote has halved and Pécresse’s shrunk by two-thirds!

This is a disastrous result for French conservatives, who spent a fortune on their campaign believing they had a chance of overtaking Le Pen and qualifying for the second round. It had seemed inconceivable that they could fall below 5%, a vitally important threshold for qualifying for millions of euros in campaign subsidies from the French state.

Meanwhile the Mayor of Paris and candidate of the once-powerful Socialist Party, Anne Hidalgo, polled only 1.7% – tenth of the twelve candidates on the first round ballot paper – confirming her party’s slide into irrelevance. The socialists have less of a financial crisis than the conservatives, because they knew from the start they were not going to reach the 5% hurdle, so they cut their spending accordingly.

Overall turnout was 74%, the second-lowest in modern French history (though higher than any UK election since 1992).

Eric Zemmour had until a month ago seemed likely to challenge Marine Le Pen for leadership of French nationalism, but first round results have confirmed that his campaign ran out of steam

The biggest surprise is that Zemmour did not win a single region, even in the south of France where Marion Maréchal has her power base. It had been thought that while Marine Le Pen would be stronger in the north and in working-class areas, the southern middle-class would desert her for Zemmour.

Le Pen did indeed poll strongly in the north, winning the Hauts-de-France region with 33.4% and taking her strongest département within that region – Pas de Calais – with 38.7%.

But Zemmour’s challenge collapsed in the south.

Le Pen won the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur (PACA) region in south-eastern France with 27.6%, while even though this was predictably Zemmour’s best region he finished fourth with 11.7%.

Zemmour did finish ahead of Le Pen in Paris, though neither of the nationalist candidates are very strong in the increasingly multi-ethnic capital. Le Pen took only 5.5% of the Parisian vote compared to Zemmour’s 8.2%. If one includes the entire Île-de-France region which includes both Paris and its outer suburbs, some of which are very multi-ethnic, the winner was far-left candidate Mélenchon with 30.2%, no doubt boosted by a heavy turnout of immigrants alarmed by Zemmour’s anti-Muslim rhetoric.

Marine Le Pen is far better placed than any previous nationalist candidate to persuade working-class voters who might have voted Mélenchon in the first round to back her against Macron in the second, though left-wing activists and media will campaign hard for an ‘anti-fascist’ vote.

H&D analysis of the 2022 French presidential election

The Le Pen family drama has begun a new episode with Marion Maréchal (above centre) endorsing a rival candidate opposing her aunt Marine Le Pen (above right) – probably with the blessing of her grandfather Jean-Marie Le Pen (above left).

On April 10th French voters go to the polls for the first round of their presidential election, with not just one but two nationalist candidates among the principal rivals to incumbent President Emmanuel Macron.

Tony Paulsen – who has observed French nationalism for more than forty years – gives his analysis of the campaign so far. Click here to read French Revolutions.

French Revolutions – Tony Paulsen reports

Eric Zemmour – has the dynamism of his campaign exploded French political assumptions?

The French presidential election campaign, fought under the shadow of the war in Ukraine, continues to spring surprises, even on long term watchers of the nationalist movement in France, such as your correspondent, whose interest goes back more than forty years to the presidential campaign of 1981, which I watched in Paris and Toulouse as a much younger man!

Given the implosion of Valerie Pécresse, the lacklustre candidate of Les Républicains, the nearest thing France has to a mainstream conservative party, it seems almost certain that President Macron will face a nationalist challenger in the second round, but which one?

First, some background and a little history. Under the Fifth Republic, French presidents are directly elected by the people. There are usually two rounds of voting, two weeks apart. Unless a candidate polls more than 50% of the vote in the first round (this year on 10th April), the first and second placed candidates progress to a second round run-off two weeks later.

Since 2002, the President’s term of office has been five years (previously it was an almost regal seven). A president may only serve two terms in office.

For forty years, the Front National, now the Rassemblement National, has been the only vehicle of the nationalist right at this level. Getting on the presidential ballot is not easy, since a candidate must find five hundred nominations from elected officials.

Jean-Marie Le Pen – founder of the Front National – and his daughter Marine, who succeeded him as leader and renamed the party.

Indeed, the FN only eclipsed its bitter rival of the 1970s, the Parti des Forces Nouvelles, when Jean-Marie Le Pen barely scraped over the line to find the nominations required for the presidential election of 1981, whereas the PFN’s Pascal Gauchon fell just short, giving the FN a decisive boost over its long term competitor. Sometimes the destiny of a political movement can turn on a handful of nominations by mayors of small towns in the provinces.

History has not however repeated itself. When the anti-immigration polemicist and media personality, Eric Zemmour, announced his candidacy for the presidency last autumn, offering the first real challenge in forty years to the RN/ex-FN’s role as the only nationalist party capable of fielding a presidential candidate, many doubted that Zemmour would make it on to the ballot. Some even predicted that both Zemmour and Marine Le Pen would fail to find sufficient elected officials to nominate them. In fact both did, in Zemmour’s case by a surprisingly comfortable margin, so that two candidates from the nationalist right will face one another in the first round on 10th April.

Back to our brief history. After Marine Le Pen succeeded her father as leader of the FN, she contested the presidential election of 2012, polling 17.9% of the vote in the first round, which was a good score, but not good enough to progress to the second, but in 2017 she polled 21.3% in the first round, sufficient to go through to the second, in which she polled an impressive 33.9%, almost doubling her father’s 17.8% when he ran off against Jacques Chirac in the second round of the 2002 election.

It is, however, no secret that Marine Le Pen did not impress in the debates with Emmanuel Macron in the lead up to second round of the 2017 election. She manifestly lacked his grasp of economic issues, but worse still, her policy of leaving the Euro and bringing back the franc alienated a large section of her own base.

By way of explanation, while the bedrock of electoral support for nationalist parties in France is the white working class, such parties nevertheless poll very much better amongst the middle classes and even the wealthy than their counterparts in what the French call the Anglo-Saxon world. A large section of the French bourgeoisie is for cultural and historical reasons much more nationally conscious than its British (let alone American) counterparts and votes in significant numbers for nationalist candidates. Desirable though that is for all kinds of reasons, it does mean that the purely economic interests of different sections of the nationally orientated electorate do on occasion diverge.

Marine Le Pen has ditched any notion of racial nationalism and is very much a ‘civic nationalist’

By 2017 the divergence was highly problematic because the working class voting bloc in the industrial (or deindustrialised) rust-belt of the north and north-east would have welcomed the break up of the Euro and a devaluation to restore the competitiveness of French industry and save or even create many jobs, whereas the older, wealthy bourgeois electorate of the PACA (Provence/Alpes/Côte d’Azur) region in the south east of France did not wish to see their vast savings eroded by devaluation and inflation, to which the franc had historically been very prone (though not, in fairness, so badly in the three decades before it was subsumed into the Euro in 2002 as in the period 1945 to 1971).

The issue was even more divisive because the north had become the personal fiefdom of Marine Le Pen, while her niece, Marion Maréchal, of whom more anon, had been elected to the National Assembly as a deputy for the Third Electoral District of Vaucluse (in the PACA region) in 2012 at the tender age of 22 and was for some years the FN’s only member of the National Assembly.

Marion remains the youngest ever elected deputy in the history of the Fifth Republic and was hugely popular with her party in the PACA region and with the electorate generally, winning a higher share of the vote in her constituency even than her aunt (who cannot have failed to notice that her niece outpolled her) or indeed any other FN candidate.

Marion is the daughter of J-M Le Pen’s second daughter, Yann. The Le Pen family’s psychodramas are notorious and their love lives are to say the least complicated. It would not be appropriate to call them private lives, as they aren’t very private, the most hilarious example being the decision of Pierrette Lalanne, J-M Le Pen’s first wife and mother of his three daughters, to pose naked in the pages of Playboy after their marriage foundered.

As another example of these complications, while Marion took the surname of her mother’s husband, Samuel Maréchal, she is the acknowledged biological daughter of a high-flying French journalist, diplomat and intelligence agent, Roger Auque (who died of cancer some years ago at the young age of 58).

Marion Maréchal is close to her grandfather Jean-Marie Le Pen and will surely be a future presidential candidate

Marion is very close to her grandfather, and was angry and upset when her aunt expelled him from the party that he had founded in 2015 for an ostensibly off the cuff remark suggesting that le menhir, as the grand old man is affectionately known (after the famous standing stones of his native Brittany) is not totally on board with the official version of what is now said to be the most important (if not the only important) event in twentieth century history.

While Marion is too young and too sensible to spend any time debating what her grandfather called a mere detail of history (quelle horreur!), it would be reasonable to infer that she was more shocked by her aunt’s reaction than her grandfather’s characteristically provocative remark, dressed up as a casual indiscretion.

Relations between aunt and niece deteriorated further in 2017 as Marine’s mistaken view that Brexit would find a powerful resonance in France proved baseless and her support for leaving the Euro lost the party millions of votes, a serious political mistake on which Marine has since been compelled to backtrack in public in a very embarrassing way.

To the despair of many once fervent supporters of the RN, Marion left the party after the 2017 presidential election, indeed quitting politics altogether for some years, tactfully declining to criticise her aunt publicly, instead claiming that she wished to spend more time with her baby daughter, Olympe, not to mention sorting out the aftermath of a messy divorce (in best Le Pen family tradition) from Olympe’s father, Matthieu Décosse, after a marriage lasting only two years.

Somewhat oddly for a practising Catholic, Marion has despite her church’s prohibition of remarriage for divorced believers, recently managed to remarry the equally Catholic Vincenzo Sofo, now a MEP for the Fratelli d’Italia after breaking with the Lega following Matteo Salvini’s decision to support the Draghi coalition government of Italy. Your correspondent suspects that a small fortune passed into the ever outstretched hands of the Vatican protonotaries who handle annulments (Catholic divorces under another name) to resolve any difficulties. Marion is now expecting her second child.

Marine Le Pen has proved an effective campaigner among working class voters in northern France

The departure of the RN’s brightest star was both the symbol of and the catalyst (a curiously appropriate word by false etymology: we’ll return to the role of cats in French nationalism shortly!) of the party’s relative decline after 2017, especially outside the northern rust-belt, in which it entrenched itself electorally, while its vote declined in other regions of France, as its electoral base became narrower and deeper.

Since 2017 the RN has haemorrhaged activists and members, for which many roundly blame its leader, who rules the party with an iron fist, brooking no dissent on the basis that if the dissidents up and leave, they have nowhere to go. Well, they do now.

To add to the disquiet of the rank and file, Marine Le Pen, while authoritarian in her leadership style, is surprisingly socially liberal in her acceptance of legal abortion and homosexual rights, surrounding herself (despite being a twice divorced straight woman with three children) with a coterie of rich, gay Parisian men, a cohort not at all to the liking of the typical RN supporter.

The general expectation of most political observers at the beginning of 2021 was that MLP would fight her third and last presidential campaign this year, coast into the second round, poll a smaller percentage of the vote than in 2017, then retire gracefully to the south of France to breed cats. She received a licence to breed pedigree cats last year and has said that after two marriages and a third long relationship that has also ended, she is now a single woman and would be cat mother, and eager to spend more time with her pets and their no doubt numerous offspring, if not elected president. If elected, she engagingly added, she will evict President Macron’s dog (no, not Brigitte, but their pet, Nemo) and move the cats into the Elysée Palace to keep her company, rather than trying to find a new man on an online dating app!

It is of course possible that, as with so many nationalist leaders, she would in practice have felt “reluctantly” compelled to continue as party leader “for want of a suitable successor” (after alienating her niece) whatever the outcome of the 2022 presidential election, but the great difficulty of reinventing herself for a fourth run at the presidency in 2027 might have kept her true to her stated intention, even if events had not developed so dramatically as they have.

Eric Zemmour was already well known as journalist, author and broadcaster long before his presidential campaign

By last summer, the lack of enthusiasm amongst all but a small hard core of MLP loyalists for a third presidential challenge and a repeat of the Macron/MLP second round was very apparent. Meanwhile, rumours began to spread that the well-known media pundit and intellectually upmarket shock jock and provocateur, Eric Zemmour, might throw his hat into the ring.

Zemmour is the son of a North African Jewish family that had supported French rule in Algeria and fled to France when it became apparent that colonial rule was not going to endure. He has long track record as an anti-immigration (and in many ways anti-Muslim) polemicist, including convictions for inciting racial hatred. Zemmour embraces a much harder line on race and immigration than MLP, who has accepted a purely civic nationalist view of what it means to be French. He is now facing a prosecution for Holocaust denial, despite being Jewish and occasionally religiously observant, for suggesting that the alleged sufferings of French homosexuals during the occupation were exaggerated.

The surface ironies of this state of affairs are obvious, though at a deeper level, it might make more sense than at first sight appears: le menhir’s daughter might have calculated that she had little to lose and much to gain by softening her father’s line on race, while Zemmour might have his own psychological as well as strategic reasons for wishing to be more French than the French.

MLP was plainly flustered by the rumours of a Zemmour candidacy. When it materialised, her political position appeared to be unravelling. First, the opinion polls showed Zemmour drawing level with her, then even surpassing her share of stated voting intentions for a short time. Then team Zemmour quickly attracted RN dissidents, including the party’s only senator, and more importantly (since many of the dissidents had already left the party by the summer of 2021) ex-members who had dropped out of politics, but now returned in large numbers, delighted by the appearance of an intellectually gifted hardliner with a talent for debate and public speaking.

Marion Maréchal’s endorsement of Eric Zemmour was the greatest shift in French nationalist politics in the last forty years

Finally, on what must have been the darkest day of MLP’s political life, her niece publicly endorsed Zemmour, appearing with him at a huge rally in Toulon, a body blow for MLP, such as she has never suffered before, though Marion’s friendship with Sarah Knafo, Zemmour’s glamorous young campaign manageress and mistress, was more than a straw in the wind.

Sarah Knafo is herself a colourful character, to say the least, describing herself as Jewish by religion but culturally Christian. Fiercely intelligent, she is in the long line of French intellectuals who are passionately committed to political causes, but in her case, on the right, not the left. One to watch.

Bearing in mind that Marion is the apple of Jean-Marie Le Pen’s eye and the most political of his many grandchildren, it is easy to believe that le menhir has told Marion (who is known to seek his advice) that while he could not publicly support her decision, he wasn’t going to condemn it either. After all, Jean-Marie Le Pen has himself spoken of his esteem for Zemmour.

It is also tolerably obvious that Marion, who is thirty years younger than Zemmour, will have in mind the saying that young cardinals love old popes, but your correspondent does not fault her for that. The Le Pen family are after all nationalist royalty and it is important to plan for the succession.

Naturally MLP’s remaining loyalists have severely criticised Marion for her decision to support Zemmour, while MLP gave a tearful interview, speaking of the pain that her niece’s “defection” to her rival’s camp had caused her.

Marion had however carefully prepared her answer to these criticisms, giving a long interview to the magazine Valeurs Actuelles (available on line on the magazine’s web site if you can read French), refuting the case against her as best she could. Many of her answers seem valid. At the very least, they deserve careful consideration. In particular, she said that the RN has reached a dead end under her aunt’s leadership. It can still get good votes (such as no British nationalist party could presently hope for, I will add) but not progress further than its present support level, partly because it has become a party for the economically disadvantaged that advocates class struggle against the better off, with the consequence that it no longer appeals to the patriotic elements of the bourgeoisie. Its leadership cadre is selected exclusively on the basis of personal loyalty to her aunt and, by another apparent paradox, is drawn from the Parisian elite and is wholly unrepresentative of the RN’s working class electorate or the French provinces, which are not enamoured of the metropolis.

Even during her absence from party politics, Marion Maréchal remained politically active, for example addressing CPAC – the major annual event of American conservatism – in 2018

Marion moreover takes a manifestly harder line on racial issues than her aunt, openly saying that she won’t apologise for being white, but will oppose the great replacement, which, astonishingly, her aunt says does not form part of her political vocabulary. Perhaps Marine needs to get out more.

In yet another apparent paradox, despite the ideological dilution of the RN under MLP, it is, said Marion, incapable of forging alliances with figures in the more mainstream conservative movement, because of its sulphurous heritage, whereas Zemmour, despite being more ideologically radical, is better received in conservative circles. He was after all for many decades a journalist on le Quotidien de Paris and le Figaro, the first a well-respected right leaning daily, the second the most important conservative newspaper in France.

Lastly, Marion retorted that her aunt should not be so tearful about her “defection”. She had, she said, left the RN in 2017, and made it very clear in public then that she has no interest in rejoining the RN, precisely because she does not see it as the fulcrum of a realignment of rightist and conservative forces, which Marion believes is necessary to win an absolute majority of the popular vote, not merely a solid minority. Moreover, she added, her aunt had no hesitation in expelling her grandfather from the party that he had founded and built. It is clear that Marion has never forgiven her aunt for expelling le menhir.

Since Marion’s spectacular appearance at the Toulon rally, her aunt’s campaign appears contrary to the expectations of many, including your correspondent, to have developed considerable and surprising momentum.

All recent polls have suggested that the second round run-off will be a repeat of 2017, with incumbent President Macron facing Marine Le Pen

I had been expecting to report the eclipse of MLP, but while Zemmour continues to attract huge and enthusiastic crowds to his rallies, notably at the Trocadéro in Paris on Sunday last, 28th March, and a far more impressive array of prominent supporters, MLP’s very different campaigning style seems to be working well for her, as her projected share of the vote, though far behind Macron’s, is now well clear of the rest of the pack.

While MLP is not setting the nation on fire, the millions of less well off French people concerned about rising inflation and declining living standards find her empathetic and increasingly likeable, compared to the remote and elitist president. MLP is not slow to point out that Zemmour’s temperament is not so very different from Macron’s, nor are his economic policies, though Zemmour is no advocate of a wholly unrestricted free market, but a protectionist. Ironies abound here, since MLP’s upbringing was middle class and comfortable, Zemmour’s poverty stricken and hard, yet she is seen as a woman of the people, and he is seen as a remote if brilliant intellectual.

Zemmour’s response to the unexpected spring in MLP’s step has been to up the ante on racial issues, promising to create a ministry of remigration that will as its name rather suggests repatriate a million immigrants in his first year in office, but events may have conspired against him here.

At present French cities are fairly calm, with none of the urban rioting that has inflamed racial tensions in recent years. Moreover, just as the first major conventional European war since 1945 has distracted one section of French society from purely domestic issues, so worsening economic hardship preoccupies the less well off more than race relations (which should be a lesson to those in our own ranks who assume without examining the history of their own movement that there is a correlation between support for the radical right and economic crisis, though that is an argument for another day).

On present trends, MLP will again oppose Emmanuel Macron in the second round on 24th April. If that is indeed the contest, it remains to be seen how the Zemmour camp reacts, and whether he will endorse MLP for the second round. Some of MLP’s more vocal critics in movement circles are openly saying what Zemmour and Marion must be thinking, that if MLP improves materially on her 2017 performance, she will be tempted to put retirement on hold, tell her cats to be patient, and have a fourth go in 2027. Meanwhile, elections to the National Assembly will likely follow this summer.

Equally, a cease fire, let alone a negotiated peace in the Ukraine would, if it came soon, deprive Emmanuel Macron of some of the incumbency advantage that every wartime leader enjoys for a while. That might not seem likely now, but in the memorable words of Harold Wilson, a week is a long time in politics!

Expect an update on these pages after 10th April!

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