Is Le Pen on verge of power?

Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron before their presidential debate in 2022: is it now possible that Macron might have to share power with a Prime Minister nominated by Le Pen?!?

It’s difficult to keep up with rapid developments in French politics this week.

After predictable success in last weekend’s Euro-election for Marine Le Pen’s anti-immigration party National Rally (RN), France’s ‘centrist’ president Emmanuel Macron called a snap parliamentary election.

British readers need to understand that the French constitution is halfway between ours and the American system. As in the USA, the President is elected separately from the Assembly, and it’s not uncommon for a President to have to ‘cohabit’ with a Prime Minister and a majority group in the Assembly who belong to a rival party or parties.

However, unlike a US President who has no choice but to cope with whatever Congress gets elected (aside from his right to veto legislation), a French President can (like a UK Prime Minister, though the latter theoretically requires the King’s permission) dissolve the Assembly and call fresh elections. Whatever happens, the President rather than the Prime Minister retains ultimate control over certain policy areas, such as defence and foreign policy, including control of nuclear weapons.

Marion Maréchal with her grandfather, FN founder Jean-Marie Le Pen. Early indications are that the 2024 election campaign might see the Le Pen dynasty reunified, though Jean-Marie Le Pen will be 96 next month and is now too frail to take an active role in politics.

Macron was landed in 2022 with an Assembly that is unmanageable, due to large blocs from the ultra-left NUPES alliance as well as Le Pen’s RN.

His decision to dissolve the Assembly despite Le Pen’s recent successes and opinion poll leads, isn’t as crazy as it seems.

For one thing, Macron has little to lose. He couldn’t govern effectively via the old Assembly, so he might as well ‘go for broke’ and risk an Assembly dominated by the ‘far right’.

A further consideration is that the far left might now be fragmenting. For several years the pre-eminent leftist leader has been Jean-Luc Mélenchon, but a combination of the old socialist’s authoritarian leadership style and his Putinist foreign policy is leading rival leftists and greens to rebel against him.

Due to the two-round electoral system and the consequent pressure for horse-trading between factions, it’s not at all certain what type of left-wing slates will be agreed. However it’s already fairly obvious that there will be a shift on the left away from Mélenchon’s irreconcilable stance, towards people and policies that might conceivably favour coalition with pro-Macron forces.

Meanwhile the mainstream right has fallen apart. Éric Ciotti, leader of the ‘centre-right’ Republicans, has split from other leading figures in his own party by advocating a deal with Le Pen. As Macron was quick to point out, any such deal seems impractical where economic policy is concerned. The Republicans’ attitude to tax and government spending ought to be far closer to Macron than to Le Pen, because the RN has moved sharply to the ‘left’ in such areas and defends the old-fashioned French ‘big state’, whereas the Republicans in recent years have shifted away from the Gaullist legacy and become more like Anglo-American fiscal conservatives.

The question as ever is – how far will French middle-class voters be prepared to accept a hit to their bank balances (including the necessity to pay higher wages to French workers as well as funding the welfare state) in return for a sincere anti-immigration policy and a tougher stance on law and order?

Marine Le Pen surrounded by non-White supporters of her RN party

Which brings us to Le Pen herself, and rival forces on the ‘far right’.

Many H&D readers will have been appalled by Le Pen’s multiracial approach. Yes, she favours much stricter immigration controls – but she is far from being a racial nationalist. We must recognise that the traditions of the French right are very different from ours. Even under the RN’s previous incarnation – the Front National led by Marine’s father Jean-Marie Le Pen – the party accepted non-White members, and in recent years the RN has gone down this route with added enthusiasm.

A further factor has been Marine Le Pen’s obsessive genuflection to Israel, which is shared by most of today’s mainstream European ‘far right’.

Nevertheless, we have to recognise that a government headed by Le Pen’s young ally Jordan Bardella (the RN’s nominee for Prime Minister) would in some ways be a giant step forward, bringing anti-immigration politics not only into the mainstream but into government.

It would raise expectations among French voters and among their fellow Europeans, and (if radical movements organise themselves seriously) can be a first step towards a more genuinely racial nationalist approach: a Europe for Europeans.

Moreover, Le Pen has in recent weeks taken one very important step to clean up European nationalism. She has taken a firm stand against the Putinist corruption that infests nationalist circles throughout the West. By expelling her German counterparts AfD from the Identity and Democracy group that her party dominates in the European Parliament, she has drawn a clear line indicating that Putinism is intrinsically anti-European and unacceptable.

Éric Zemmour, the Kremlin’s favourite French politician and Marine Le Pen’s rival for leadership of the ‘far right’, has seen his Reconquête party collapse within the first few days of the election campaign.

Within days of the Assembly election being called, the Putinist wing of French nationalism – the Reconquête party led by Jewish journalist Éric Zemmour – collapsed. Zemmour’s effective deputy Marion Maréchal (who happens to be Marine Le Pen’s niece but has long been at odds with her aunt) was open to the idea of an electoral pact between the RN and Reconquête to maximise the right’s chances of entering government.

Zemmour was horrified. He swiftly expelled Ms Maréchal from his party, calling her a traitor. This extreme reaction perhaps owed something to Zemmour’s partner Sarah Knafo (also Jewish), who like Ms Maréchal is a newly elected MEP and who undoubtedly exerts great influence over the party leader.

With the election campaign only a few days old we have seen two parties collapse: Reconquête and the centre-right Republicans. For equal and opposite reasons both Macron and Marine Le Pen will be satisfied with the way things have gone so far.

It promises to be one of the most interesting elections in European history, and perhaps a turning point for our movement (broadly defined).

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