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!

Le Pen Presidential Campaign Panics Liberal Media

Marine Le Pen - FN Congress

Establishment media commentators are increasingly panicked by the prospect of Marine Le Pen being elected President of France on May 7th.  The Financial Times today reports: “Marine Le Pen has a better chance in France than you think”.  The venerable Andreas Whittam Smith in The Independent speculates: “This is what would have to go wrong for Marine Le Pen to win the presidential election”.  New Statesman correspondent Stephen Bush suggests that Marine Le Pen can still win the presidency.  While Sky News Europe correspondent Mark Stone has just posted a report on “Why Marine Le Pen’s message resonates across France”.

Let’s be clear – the odds remain heavily against Marine Le Pen winning (this time) because of the French electoral system.  Probably around ten candidates will qualify for the first round of the presidential election on April 23rd, and opinion polls have for some time been almost unanimous in showing that Marine Le Pen will be ahead in this first round, with something like 27% of the nationwide vote.

But she would then have to win a second round against the runner-up.

Conservative presidential candidate François Fillon: once favourite, now his campaign is in crisis

Conservative presidential candidate François Fillon: once favourite, now his campaign is in crisis

For some time this looked likely to be a Thatcher-style conservative – François Fillon of the Republicans, who under the former name UMP were led by former Presidents Jacques Chirac and Nicolas Sarkozy.

But following financial scandals it looks likely that Fillon might be overtaken by the ex-socialist Emmanuel Macron, who created his own centrist party last year and has enjoyed a surge of media-fuelled support (similar to the SDP over here in the early 1980s).

Macron’s chances have been boosted by today’s endorsement from François Bayrou, a relic of the more “moderate” conservatism which ruled France in the 1970s under President Giscard – the type of politics which founded and still dominates European Union bureaucracies. Bayrou split his own party in 2007 to form the “Democracy Movement”: by supporting Macron this year he has effectively declared the death of “moderate” French conservatism.  German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose politics are similar to Bayrou, must be looking on nervously as she faces her own struggle for re-election on September 24th this year.

Liberal media favourite Emmanuel Macron during his visit to Downing St this week: he now looks most likely to face Marine Le Pen in the second ballot run-off for the Presidency.

Liberal media favourite Emmanuel Macron during his visit to Downing St this week: he now looks most likely to face Marine Le Pen in the second ballot run-off for the Presidency.

Meanwhile in fourth place are the ruling Socialists.  Though incumbent President François Hollande decided not to stand for re-election, and his party opted for the most far-left alternative candidate Benoît Hamon, polls suggest that Hamon has in a matter of weeks doubled the pathetic vote that Hollande would have polled.  Hamon (15%) seems to be no longer too far behind Fillon and Macron (each on around 20%).

However there are candidates even further to the left than Hamon, such as former minister Jean-Luc Mélenchon (12%) and an assortment of Trotskyists and Greens (about 3% combined).  Only if Mélenchon quits the race does it seem possible for Hamon to qualify for the second round.

And – realistically – this would be the most obvious chance for Marine Le Pen.  Regardless of “anti-fascist” demonisation, would French conservatives really elect a President from the far left to defeat her?  (The only presidential challenger to her hegemony over the non-conservative right is perennial traditionalist candidate Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, who though a long-term ally of Nigel Farage and UKIP only polls around 3%.)

Benoît Hamon – Socialist candidate – will reach the second round only if he can unite the far left

Benoît Hamon – Socialist candidate – will reach the second round only if he can unite the far left

More interesting (especially in the longer term) is the alternative scenario.  Increasing numbers of working-class French voters (including former socialists/communists) see Marine Le Pen and her party as champions of the worker against the pitiless, international and cosmopolitan values of the “free” market.  She has achieved this – remarkably – without suffering too many damaging splits within her own movement.

Marine Le Pen has long recognised this trend.  While trying to “de-demonise” the party in some areas, such as her (so-far fruitless) attempts to appeal to Zionist/Jewish opinion by stressing a common front against radical Islam, she has in terms of economic/financial policy been far more radical than her father, who at one time was aligned with Reaganites and Thatcherites in an anti-communist, pro-capitalist stance.

Even if Hamon makes it into the second round, the French left is surely bankrupt.  Marine Le Pen and the FN have a great chance of reaching the Elysée Palace – if not this year then in 2022.

 

BBC admits “The Power of Le Pen”

While the British nationalist movement approaches its weakest electoral performance for almost thirty years, the French National Front of Marine Le Pen seems ever more credible as a potential government.

The BBC’s Robert Peston last week presented a surprisingly fair assessment of the FN’s progress.  The programme can be seen in the video link below.

After what is certain to be a disastrous general election for British nationalists in May, Heritage and Destiny will play its part in the discussion of where we go from here: how and what can we learn from the experience of fellow nationalists in Europe?

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