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.

French nationalist politics in crisis: is this the end for Marine Le Pen?

A political family in happier times: (above left to right) Jean-Marie Le Pen, Marion Maréchal, and Marine Le Pen.

Recent issues of Heritage and Destiny have commented on serious political problems for Marine Le Pen, who this year is fighting her third and perhaps last French presidential election.

Ever since the early 1980s the once fractious world of ‘far right’ French politics has been effortlessly dominated by the Le Pen family: first Jean-Marie Le Pen, founder of the Front National (National Front), and then his daughter Marine, who renamed the party Rassemblement National (National Rally) as part of a continuing effort to win acceptance in mainstream politics – a process termed dédiabolisation (‘dedemonisation’).

Both of the Le Pens were (until now) assisted by the weakness of rival claimants to leadership of French nationalism. Yet in recent months a credible and charismatic rival has emerged – author and television personality Éric Zemmour.

Due to his Jewish ancestry (and at least semi-observant Jewish faith), Zemmour is partly exempt from the stigma usually attached (since 1945) to any European politician to the right of mainstream conservatism. While Marine Le Pen has aimed for respectability, Zemmour has aimed for maximum outrage, on issues ranging from Islam to the CoVID pandemic.

During the last few days several prominent figures in the National Rally have defected to Zemmour’s camp, and even Marine Le Pen’s niece Marion Maréchal told an interviewer that she would not be supporting her aunt, and might endorse Zemmour.

Criticising her aunt for “incessant ideological and programme changes …[showing] lack of logic and vision”, she hinted:
“I’m thinking about it. I haven’t decided. If I support Éric, [it] would not just be a question of passing by and saying hello. It would mean returning to politics. It’s a real life choice, a heavy decision.”

Éric Zemmour, Jewish challenger for leadership of French nationalism

One of many issues here is that MLP has striven so hard to be more Zionist than the Chief Rabbi, that she is not only outflanked on the anti-Islam issue by Zemmour, but to some extent on the ‘Jewish Question’ (or ‘Questions’) as well!

Zemmour has openly called for the rehabilitation of Marshal Philippe Pétain and his wartime government based at Vichy – which was in its day supported by the vast majority of French citizens but quickly demonised after 1944-45; and for repeal of the French anti-revisionist law known as the Gayssot Law (or more precisely the Gayssot-Fabius Law), which was drafted primarily to criminalise the late Prof. Robert Faurisson and should perhaps therefore be termed Lex Faurissoniana.

Marine Le Pen by contrast has openly supported this anti-revisionist law, as part of comprehensive efforts to distance herself from her father’s perceived ‘anti-semitism’. In order to ‘dedemonise’ herself she has steadily adopted the ‘mainstream’ demonisation of European fascism, national-socialism, and even Pétain’s French traditionalism.

She has now confronted the doubters in her own party, asking them to “leave now if you want to go. Having people here while their heart or their mind is elsewhere is unbearable. It is a total lack of dignity and respect towards all of our supporters.”

The latest development is that 93-year-old Jean-Marie Le Pen has called on his niece and her supporters to remain loyal to Marine, while also hinting that even he feels some sympathy for the Zemmour campaign. Some might question his motives for this intervention, but undoubtedly the last few days have seen what was already an unusually interesting presidential election become even more so: perhaps a turning point in the history of postwar European nationalism.

The March-April edition of H&D will include extensive analysis of the changing shape of Europe’s ‘far right’.

Old gang parties unite to block Le Pen – but most French voters boycott election

Next year’s election still seems likely to end in a run-off between President Emmanuel Macron (above left) and Marine Le Pen, but both suffered disappointing results yesterday.

The second round of the French regional elections yesterday ended in disappointment for Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National (RN – successor to the French National Front founded by her father Jean-Marie Le Pen), but disaster for President Emmanuel Macron’s ‘centrist’ party En Marche.

Mme Le Pen had hoped her party might gain control of a region so as to demonstrate its capacity to govern, ahead of next year’s presidential election when she expects to be Macron’s main challenger.

Her main target was the southern region Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur (PACA), a traditionally strong area both for the RN and in earlier years for the FN. The RN list was headed by Thierry Mariani, who was transport minister a decade ago in the conservative government of Prime Minister Fillon and President Sarkozy and has been the highest profile defector from the centre-right to Mme Le Pen’s ranks.

In last Sunday’s first round, this RN list was narrowly ahead by 36.4% to 31.9%, with the largest of the leftist-green slates on 16.9%. This meant that the latter slate had the right to contest the second round (which is not simply a run-off between the two largest parties, but can be joined by any list that polled above 10% in the first round).

However in a move showing that despite the Le Pen strategy of dédiabolisation (‘de-demonisation’) the RN is still regarded by its opponents as a ‘far right’ / ‘fascist’ threat, the left decided to withdraw from PACA’s second round and endorse the conservative ‘centre right’ slate, headed by incumbent regional president Reynaud Muselier.

This despite the fact that Mme Le Pen is far close to the traditional left than the ‘centre right’ on economic policy. Her party duly lost the PACA second round by 57% to 43%. This was slightly down from the 45.2% achieved by the RN slate (then headed by the leader’s niece Marion Maréchal) in this region six years ago.

Sébastien Chenu (above left) – former head of the LGBT wing of the French centre-right conservative party – was one of several leading conservatives to defect to Marine Le Pen’s RN and headed her slate in the party’s second strongest region, but finished a distant runner-up yesterday.

Potentially good news for Mme Le Pen is that only 34% of the PACA electorate turned out to cast a valid vote yesterday, in line with mass abstention nationwide. In particular, despite calls for a ‘republican front’ against the RN ‘fascists’, 90% of voters under 25 seem to have boycotted the election. Not only did they refuse to turn out to block the ‘far right’ in this second round – they weren’t even interested in the first round, when a vast range of alternatives, from Trotskyists to traditional conservatives, and including different varieties of green, were on the ballot.

Yet it must remain disturbing for the RN leader that although the French government is widely perceived to have failed during the Covid crisis – there is no Boris-style ‘bounce’ for Macron – and despite all her efforts to make her party seem less ‘extreme’, she remains unable to breakthrough to a wider public than the people who have supported her for much of the past decade.

Perhaps as for racial nationalist parties and groups across much of the White world, the RN has been unable to develop a clear message during Covid, with some favouring a version of anti-lockdown or even anti-vaccination theories, while others wanted to maintain a focus on our movement’s traditional issues and criticising (where appropriate) government inefficiency and cronyism in the face of the pandemic.

In the RN’s second-strongest area Hauts-de-France they made almost no progress, from 24.4% in the first round to 25.7% in the second (compared to 42.2% in the equivalent region in 2015, when Marine Le Pen herself headed the slate); in Bourgogne-Franche-Comté (one of four mainland regions won by left-green coalitions) the RN slipped from second to third place with 23.8%; while in Brittany (also one by socialists and greens) the RN vote fell from 14.3% in the first round to 13.2% in the second.

President Macron’s party En Marche failed to win a single region, and in several regions polled below 10%.

No breakthrough for Le Pen in low turnout French elections

Next year’s election will be Marine Le Pen’s third attempt to win the French presidency

Yesterday’s regional elections in France were preceded by customary liberal media scare stories about likely breakthrough for a ‘resurgent far right’. Yet the first round results – while undeniably bad news for President Emmanuel Macron’s ‘centrist’ party La République en marche (LREM) – were not a great success for Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National (National Rally – the renamed National Front).

Turnout fell to less than 34%, indicating that the Macron government (unlike Boris Johnson’s UK government so far) is seen as having failed the nation during Covid – yet voters have not swung behind the RN opposition.

The main winners of the first round were ‘centre-right’ conservatives, though next year’s presidential election is still almost certain to end in a choice between Macron and Mme Le Pen.

There are thirteen regional councils governing mainland France (the most important tier below the republic’s national government), plus five overseas. Voters in these regions choose among party lists in a two-round system. To qualify for the second round a list must poll 10% in the first: having done so, it can then fight the second round either by itself or on a combined ticket which can be joined by any other list that polled over 5% in the first round.

As part of Marine Le Pen’s strategy of dédiabolisation to win respectability for her party, it would be important to win control of a region and demonstrate that the RN is capable of holding serious political responsibility.

Her best chance is in the traditional FN/RN stronghold known as PACA – the southern region Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur. Here the RN list is headed by Thierry Mariani, who was transport minister a decade ago in the conservative government of Prime Minister Fillon and President Sarkozy.

Mariani leads a right-wing conservative faction that broke away to ally with Le Pen in 2019 – one of the big successes of her dédiabolisation strategy. Yesterday RN’s list in this region ‘won’ the first round with 36.4%, but was not far ahead of the centre-right conservative list (backed in this region by the President’s party LREM) on 31.9%. A socialist-green list with 16.9% also has the option of contesting next Sunday’s second round and can expect support from a range of smaller green and left-wing parties knocked out in the first round, but despite Mariani’s ‘respectability’ there is likely to be some swing of ‘anti-fascist’ voters behind the conservatives.

Xavier Bertrand is set for re-election as regional president of Hauts-de-France, a boost to his ambition to become conservative presidential candidate next year.

Marine Le Pen’s home region Nord Pas-de-Calais was merged with Picardy in the restructuring of French regions a decade ago and now forms part of Hauts-de-France. Here Sébastien Chenu, one of several open homosexuals among Mme Le Pen’s party leadership, was hoping to defeat one of the leading French conservatives, regional president Xavier Bertrand, who is likely to be the centre-right’s presidential candidate next year.

However, Bertrand’s list won the first round easily with 41.2% ahead of the RN’s 24.4% and the socialist-green list’s 19.0%, with President Macron’s LREM knocked out on 9.1%.

The centre-right also looks likely to win the Île-de-France region that includes Paris and its environs, after its list led the first round with 35.9% ahead of the RN’s 13.1%. The result here did illustrate comical divisions on the French left, with three rival socialist/green lists all qualifying for the second round by polling over 10% (unless they can negotiate a combined slate).

Good news for Marine Le Pen is that her party has qualified for the second round in all thirteen mainland regions, with one first-place and eight runners-up. Aside from the three regions mentioned above, RN votes ranged from 12.3% in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes to 23.2% in Bourgogne-Franche-Comté.

Apart from Corsica (where the RN polled only 4%) and various ‘French’ regions in South America, the Caribbean and Indian Ocean where the RN is predictably weak, Marine Le Pen can claim to lead a serious alternative party of government.

But the main challenge in next Sunday’s second round (and in next year’s presidential election) will be to convert widespread public disillusionment with Macron into positive support for the RN rather than yesterday’s winners – apathy and the ‘centre-right’.

European populism reshuffled as Orbán’s party quits ‘centre-right’ alliance

Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has for years been seen as a leader of Europe’s populist right, while his party remained in the mainstream ‘centre-right’ bloc

The Fidesz party led by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán – seen as a leading force in the European populist right – has resigned from the main centre-right group in the European Parliament. This move will lead to a rebalancing of populist and anti-immigration forces, dependent on Orbán’s next move.

As regular H&D readers will know, international groups broadly representing ideological tendencies are an important feature of the European Parliament. Forming such a group is the key to unlocking substantial extra funds and representation on Parliamentary committees. (There is also a complicated difference between groups within the Parliament and extra-parliamentary political alliances that can also receive European funds and tend to cover much the same ground as the Parliamentary groups, but are technically separate.)

For many years ‘far right’ parties struggled to qualify for group status, partly because the rules were changed by Eurocrats, and partly because of internal divisions between populists and racial nationalists, or over sundry ‘petty nationalist’ or ‘national chauvinist’ issues that loom large especially in Eastern and South Eastern Europe.

Leading figures in ‘The Movement’, an alliance of European populists that preceded formation of the ID group – (left to right) former Trump adviser Steve Bannon; former Italian deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini; and Brussels-based Jewish lawyer Mischael Modrikamen

The present situation is that (reading from ‘centre’ to ‘far’ right) the following Parliamentary groups exist covering a wide spectrum of right of centre views:

European People’s Party (EPP) – the largest group, covering the mainstream of Europe’s Christian Democratic and centre-right tradition who were the core of the European federalist project from its inception. The largest parties in the EPP are Angela Merkel’s ruling CDU-CSU from Germany, and the Spanish conservative Partido Popular (PP).

European Conservatives & Reformists (ECR) – comprises conservatives who are more ‘right wing’ on economics (i.e. anti-state, pro-market), and/or more sceptical about European federalism than their EPP colleagues, but who would wish to avoid being tainted by radical anti-immigration politics or by association with parties that have even faint historic associations with European fascism. Until Britain left the EU, the Conservative Party was the largest force in ECR alongside the Polish governing party Law & Justice.

Identity & Democracy (ID) – the greatly expanded populist rightwing / anti-immigration group launched after the 2019 European elections. The largest parties in this group are Lega, led by Italy’s former deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini; Rassemblement National, formerly Front National, led by Marine Le Pen, a leading contender for next year’s French presidential election; Germany’s anti-immigration party AfD; and Marine Le Pen’s original allies – the Austrian Freedom Party and the Flemish separatists Vlaams Belang.

Marine Le Pen with one of her original European allies Geert Wilders

Another group that was significantly more Eurosceptic than ECR but frightened of even mildly racial nationalist associations was Europe of Freedom & Direct Democracy, formed by UKIP / Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage and his allies. This dissolved after Brexit as it no longer had sufficient members.

And to the right of ID are an assortment of more hardline racial nationalists who are unacceptable to Mme Le Pen and Salvini because they are explicitly national socialist or otherwise deemed ‘extremist’. These have included Golden Dawn from Greece; the Slovak national socialist party led by Marian Kotleba – People’s Party Our Slovakia; and the Hungarian nationalist party Jobbik.

There have been several unexpected alignments, some the result of political calculation rather than ideological purity. Though a committed social liberal, UK Prime Minister David Cameron took his Conservative Party out of EPP and into alliance with far more right-wing parties in ECR. This was a cynical gesture designed both to secure Cameron’s election as party leader and to prevent voters (and even MPs) defecting to UKIP – it was part of Cameron’s political gamble that ended in his political ruin at the Brexit referendum in 2016.

Meanwhile Viktor Orbán (though far to the right of Cameron on all social issues) was in the more ‘moderate’ EPP. The surprise is that it has taken so long for this odd marriage to end in divorce. After liberal elements in the EPP forced through a rule change that would have allowed them to expel Fidesz, Orbán today chose to pull his party out of the group before he was pushed.

The big question now is whether he will bite the bullet and sign up with the Le Pen / Salvini group, or whether (like the Spanish ‘far right’ anti-immigration party Vox) he is too frightened of ‘fascist’ associations and opts instead for the ECR, which would then be dominated by a Polish-Hungarian axis, though curiously it also includes the ‘post-fascist’ Italian party Fratelli d’Italia.

Can Le Pen win?

Marine Le Pen: can she win in 2022?

As in 1848, “a spectre is haunting Europe”. But unlike in Marx and Engels’ time, it’s not the “spectre of communism”. In 2021 the ghost at the socially-distanced feast is the ‘far right’, or what its more hysterical opponents would term ‘fascism’.

And as has been the case periodically ever since the mid-1980s when Jean-Marie Le Pen’s Front National (National Front) made its first electoral breakthrough, France is the main focus of ‘anti-fascist’ concern.

The latest flurry was prompted by an opinion poll carried out on 19th-20th January and published this week. It shows not only that Marine Le Pen, who took over her father’s party in 2011 and renamed it Rassemblement National (National Rally), would ‘win’ the first-round of a presidential election, but that she would be only 4% behind in a hypothetical second-round run-off against incumbent ‘centrist’ President Emmanuel Macron.

Analysts have long taken for granted that Le Pen would be one of the top two first-round candidates at the next presidential election (due to be held in April 2022), and would probably lead the field at this stage, but have assumed that she would certainly lose the run-off.

In 2002 it was a ‘shock’ when Jean-Marie Le Pen overtook a divided left and qualified for the run-off against conservative President Jacques Chirac, but he was then defeated 82%-18%. Then in 2017 Marine Le Pen finished only just behind Macron in the first-round, but lost 66%-34% in the run-off.

There are two big factors presently helping Ms Le Pen. The first is of course Covid-19. Unlike his German neighbour and fellow ‘centrist’ Angela Merkel, whose popularity has been boosted by the pandemic, Macron is not seen to have had a ‘good war’. Indeed French failures in the production of vaccines have dragged down the entire EU and made the UK look a model of competence by comparison.

The second, perhaps deeper problem is that Macron has sought to reassure French voters by taking a hard line against what he would call ‘Islamism’. Perhaps intentionally, this is perceived not just as anti-‘Islamist’, but anti-Islam.

To be fair, there is a substantial section of French liberals and socialists who are committed secularists, for whom suspicion of all religious influence (originally suspicion of Catholics but now also or especially of Muslims) is central to their politics. Such committed secularism would seem eccentric in the UK and outrageous in the USA, but is perfectly normal in France.

A socially distanced (and increasingly politically isolated) President Emmanuel Macron lays a wreath at Charles de Gaulle’s London statue in June 2020. Might Macron emulate de Gaulle in stepping aside from the presidency rather than risk defeat in 2022?

But even in France, other socialists and liberals prioritise their ‘anti-racism’ above their secularism. Macron is taking a big risk: in attempting to win over voters who are concerned about Islam or about wider immigration-related issues, he risks alienating these sections of liberal-left opinion. The latter group of voters might be so disgusted that they abstain or ‘waste’ their votes in next year’s run-off rather than voting for Macron as the ‘lesser evil’.

Moreover yet another section of the old socialist/communist vote – working class voters in depressed post-industrial areas – have become a core part of Le Pen’s support.

Perhaps this latest opinion poll is the nadir of Macron’s fortunes: the Covid news can surely only get better, can’t it???

If it doesn’t, one risky option would be for the French establishment to ditch Macron in favour of a ‘fresh face’.

Marion Maréchal, seen here with her grandfather FN founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, might be the long-term successor to her aunt Marine Le Pen.

Either way, the 2022 elections are surely Marine Le Pen’s best but also last chance. If she cannot defeat a Covid-damaged Macron (or a last-minute substitute), the French anti-immigration movement would be likely to seek a new figurehead.

There’s everything to play for, and an interesting year ahead for race-conscious patriots across Europe.

Mixed results for RN in French elections

For the 2020 local elections the anti-immigration RN headed by Marine Le Pen (above right) formed joint slates with the much smaller eurosceptic party headed by Nicolas Dupont-Aignan (above left)

On Sunday 28th June French local government elections held their decisive second round, postponed for more than three months due to Covid-19 restrictions.

These elections were for more than 35,000 communes across France, ranging from tiny villages to giant cities. The three largest cities (Paris, Lyon and Marseilles) also elect councillors and mayors in their various districts known as arrondissements. There are also regional councils known as départements, but these departmental elections (once known as cantonal elections) are held separately from the communes – most recently in 2015, and next due in 2021.

Similarly the mayors and councillors in the communes are elected to six-year terms, so the positions elected on Sunday were last elected in 2014.

In those days Marine Le Pen’s party was called the Front National (National Front – FN); it was renamed Rassemblement National (National Rally – RN) in 2018.

Six years ago the FN won 1,438 councillors spread across 463 communes. After this week’s second round the RN’s councillor total was down to 840, spread across 258 communes.

Despite this patchy performance, one headline result was very positive news for Marine Le Pen. Louis Aliot (who was Mme Le Pen’s domestic partner for a decade until last year) is the new Mayor of Perpignan, after his RN slate won the second round with 53.1% against 46.9% for his conservative opponent.

This is the first time in almost twenty years that the RN or FN has controlled a city with a population of more than 100,000. From 1997 to 2001 the FN controlled Toulon, a slightly larger city further along the Mediterranean coast.

Steeve Briois (above left) was re-elected Mayor of the RN stronghold Hénin-Beaumont after the first round of local elections in March

Aside from Perpignan, the other communes won by the RN this year are relatively small towns. Six of these had already been won on the first round in March, by the RN polling more than 50%.

All of these were communes that the FN/RN had already controlled since 2014:

  • the Mediterranean port of Fréjus; first round RN vote 50.6%, population 52,672
  • the Avignon suburb of Le Pontet; first round RN vote 57.2%, population 17,530
  • Beaucaire, a small town in the Rhône Valley ten miles south-west of Avignon; first round RN vote 59.5%, population 15,963
  • Villers-Cotterêts, a small town fifty miles north of Paris; first round RN vote 53.5%, population 10,872
  • Hayange, an ancient iron manufacturing town in the Lorraine region close to the Franco-German border; first round RN vote 63.1%, population 15,811
  • Hénin-Beaumont, a former coal mining town in the Pas de Calais region of northern France, and now the strongest nationalist area of France – very much the heartland of Marine Le Pen’s brand of populist nationalism; first round RN vote 74.2%, population 26,022

The three communes gained by the RN after Sunday’s second round were:

  • Perpignan, a city on the Mediterranean coast, very close to the Franco-Spanish border; RN second round vote 53.1%, population 120,158
  • Moissac, a small town in the Occitania region of southern France; RN second round vote 62.5%, population 13,039
  • Bruay-la-Buissière, a former coal mining town in the Pas de Calais, close to the existing RN stronghold of Hénin-Beaumont; RN second round vote 52.0%, population 21,831.

The bigger picture of last Sunday’s elections was a historically unprecedented win for the French green party EELV who gained control of several important cities including Lyon, Strasbourg, Bordeaux and Besançon.

Stéphane Ravier, previously Mayor of a Marseilles arrondissement, was one of the RN’s high-profile defeats in Sunday’s second round, beaten by a conservative slate by a very tight 51-49 margin.

A joint slate of Greens, Communists and Socialists became the largest party grouping in Marseille, winning 38.3% in the second round ahead of a conservative coalition on 30.8%, the RN on 20.3%, and assorted dissident leftist and dissident conservative slates making up the remaining 10.2%.

After negotiations later this week a Green mayor is likely to take power in Marseille. The bad news for Marine Le Pen’s RN is that by a very tight margin their candidate Stéphane Ravier lost the mayoralty of the 13th-14th arrondissement of Marseilles. Under the old FN label he had won the mayoralty of the old 7th arrondissement in 2014 and had controlled the new 13th-14th after boundary changes in 2017.

On the bright side, President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist party suffered numerous defeats across the country. Opinion polls still suggest that the most likely second round in the next presidential election in 2022 will be between Macron and Marine Le Pen – and that Macron would again win such a contest, though by a closer margin than in 2017.

However Macron’s authority is steadily dribbling away. The challenge for Marine Le Pen’s party will now be to make a success of running Perpignan, make further gains in next year’s regional elections; and achieve the difficult balance between reassuring ‘mainstream’ voters that the nationalist right can be trusted, without disillusioning traditional nationalists whose support is still required to provide an activist base.

The danger is that purging ‘hardliners’ leads to an exodus of local government candidates and other activists, without inspiring an influx of new blood. Floating voters are all very well, but any party also needs a solid base of committed supporters.

Not much to celebrate: Macron in London for De Gaulle anniversary as French local elections approach

While many Britons still in the grip of the Covid-19 crisis tend to think France has by comparison done quite well, the French themselves increasingly despair of President Emmanuel Macron.

This neo-Blairite ‘centrist’ poseur was once a media favourite, but as with his Canadian equivalent Justin Trudeau, even the docile press have started to perceive his essential shallowness. Fine words about national unity sound increasingly fatuous when, as in the last few days, a city such as Dijon is gripped by race war between Chechen and Algerian gangs.

Gen. Charles de Gaulle (far right) in 1941 with (left to right) Polish exile Prime Minister Władysław Sikorski; Canadian Corps commander Gen. Andrew McNaughton; and Winston Churchill – who was later alleged to have ordered Sikorski’s assassionation (see articles in the two most recent editions of H&D).

This weekend Macron is in London for celebrations to mark the 80th anniversary of Gen. Charles de Gaulle’s declaration in 1940 that rallied a minority of Frenchmen in an anti-German alliance with Winston Churchill’s British Empire.

(Presumably statues of these ‘racist colonialists’ will be protected for long enough to avoid embarrassment!)

Meanwhile France is preparing for the long-delayed second round of municipal elections being held in most of the country in nine days time (28th June). The first round was held way back on 15th March, but the second had to be postponed for three months due to the Covid-19 crisis.

These elections are in 35,000 communes across France, ranging from tiny villages to big cities. The three biggest cities – Paris, Lyon and Marseille – also have elections for arrondissements, roughly the equivalent of London boroughs, as well as city-wide councils.

Those communes with more than 1,000 electors vote on a two-round party list system, with the head of the winning list becoming mayor. To qualify for the second round a party list must poll above 10% in the first, but parties polling above 5% can negotiate to merge their lists with larger parties in advance of the second round, allowing many opportunities for horse-trading.

Serge Federbusch, the half-Hungarian, half-Algerian Jewish mayoral candidate in Paris for Marine Le Pen’s ‘far right’ National Rally (RN)

So in Paris for example, the incumbent Socialist mayor Anne Hidalgo looks certain to win after striking a deal with the Greens to form a joint second round slate. The conservative slate in the French capital is headed by Rachida Dati, a half Moroccan, half-Algerian woman who once served as a spokesman and minister for ex-President Nicolas Sarkozy. This conservative slate is headed for second place, while Macron’s ‘centrist’ slate, headed by yet another woman, is in third.

Greens polled very well across the country during the first round contests in March, which were also notable for very low turnouts due to both Covid-19 and general political disillusionment. For whatever reason these low turnouts seem to have contributed to quite poor results for the main French nationalist party, Marine Le Pen’s National Rally (RN – formerly the National Front) as well as for the far left.

Le Pen’s RN – which traditionally struggles in these local elections because the two round system doesn’t suit ‘extremist’ parties – has been reduced to a small number of strongholds such as Hénin-Beaumont in the far north Pas de Calais region.

Despite forming a joint slate with the eurosceptic party Debout la France, the RN managed only 8,114 first round votes (1.5%) across the whole of Paris, where its mayoral candidate was ex-socialist Serge Federbusch, son of Hungarian and Algerian-Jewish communists. This was down from 42,560 votes (6.3%) in 2014.

However the good news for Le Pen (and perhaps also for the struggling President Macron) is that the conservative right is also failing. For example, the incumbent conservatives were beaten into second place by a green-socialist slate in Marseille.

Le Pen’s RN slate finished third in Marseille with 19.4% (having been runner-up with 23.2% at the previous elections in 2014), but whereas the greens, socialists, communists and all but one of the ultra-leftist factions have united for the second round, the conservatives still regard Le Pen’s movement as ‘beyond the pale’, so they will continue to oppose each other.

So long as there is no ‘mainstream’ conservative revival, Marine Le Pen is likely to qualify for the run-off in the next presidential election, either against Macron or some sort of socialist.

Marion Maréchal – niece of Marine Le Pen and granddaughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen – might be the future of French nationalism.

One remaining question is whether Macron will run his full presidential term until 2022, or choose to call a ‘snap’ election this year and seek a fresh mandate post-Covid. Despite his unpopularity, this might prove his best bet due to a divided opposition, but the question then would be whether this election (in 2020 or 2022) is Marine Le Pen’s last shot.

The RN leader has made a lot of enemies with her efforts to purge the RN of traditional nationalist themes. An example of this could be seen this week, as Marine Le Pen sought in vain to be included in the ranks of mainstream politicians paying tribute to De Gaulle.

The next presidential campaign will be her third. Will she be allowed a fourth? Or will French nationalism once again head for realignment under a new leader, perhaps Marine Le Pen’s niece Marion Maréchal?

Le Pen stays ahead as French Conservatism dies

Marine-Le-Pen 2017

French National Front (FN) leader Marine Le Pen is set to win the first round of the French presidential election on April 23rd, as polls confirm the death of French conservatism. While Mme Le Pen is likely to lose the decisive second round to ‘centrist’ candidate and former Rothschild banker Emmanuel Macron, time is on her side: French voters’ resistance to globalisation spells long term victory for the FN.

Today’s Observer reports from ‘forgotten France’, the Yonne area south of Paris, typical of the areas where the FN is registering strong support among young voters.  Nor is this restricted to the ‘underclass’: there are now growing FN branches inside elite universities.

The latest polls suggest that the candidate of neo-Thatcherite conservatism – former Prime Minister François Fillon – might slip to fourth place, defeated not only by Le Pen and Macron but by extreme-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who has been the dark horse of the campaign in the past fortnight.  In fact if the extreme-left had been able to unite behind a single candidate, the second round would probably have seen Le Pen v Mélenchon rather than Le Pen v Macron.

Arguably French politics should no longer be seen as Left v Right, but rather as Globalist v Nationalist.

Just over half of French voters remain wedded to their national traditions, against the chill winds of deracinated globalism. But this majority is itself evenly split between those who have opted for Le Pen’s FN and those who remain with some variety of 20th century leftism.

The traditionalist majority is opposed by a globalist minority – but most do not wish to face the full brutal logic of globalism, represented by Fillon’s policies of Thatcher-style cuts and deregulation, which would make France more like the UK or even the USA. It doesn’t help their cause when Fillon himself – while preaching austerity and state cutbacks for other Frenchmen – is found to have been profiting outrageously (and perhaps illegally) from lavish state payments to his wife for non-jobs!

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