Setback for Le Pen in French Assembly election


Marine-Le-Pen 2017

A month after her defeat in the French Presidential election (where she had been only the second FN candidate ever to reach the second round run-off) Marine Le Pen’s National Front (FN) had disappointing results yesterday in the first round of parliamentary elections to the French National Assembly.

The FN polled just under 3 million votes (13.2%), down from 3.5m (13.6%) at the previous Assembly election in 2012, and 7.7m (21.3%) in the presidential first round just seven weeks ago.

One feature of yesterday’s election was a sharp drop in turnout, down to 48.7% from 57.2% in 2012.  Indeed before 2012 even these Assembly elections always had turnouts over 60%: in the 1980s and earlier turnout was over 70%.

This widespread disillusionment with the political process is not a strong foundation for the new French President, former Rothschild banker turned ‘centrist’ politician Emmanuel Macron, whose new party En Marche! seems set for a landslide victory in next week’s second round.

The new party formed by President Emmanuel Macron is set for a landslide majority in the French Assembly.

The new party formed by President Emmanuel Macron is set for a landslide majority in the French Assembly.

Macron’s manifesto is bland and vacuous even by modern political standards, so once in office he is bound to alienate some sections of his present support.

Marine Le Pen correctly points out that the two-round system is heavily biased against her party, unlike the proportional voting used in 1986, which allowed her father Jean-Marie Le Pen and his supporters to win 35 Assembly seats.  In 2012 the FN took only two seats, having had none in 2007 and only one member re-elected in 1988, 1993, 1997 and 2002.

Normally the top two candidates in the first round progress into next week’s run-off (though in a handful of cases either one candidate will be elected immediately by winning a majority of the electorate in the first ballot; or a third candidate will qualify for the second-round by managing 12.5% or more of the electorate in the first-round – note these percentages relate to the electorate, not merely those who turn out – so they are high hurdles to jump.)

In 2012 the two FN Assembly winners were both in southern France. Marion Maréchal Le Pen (the leader’s niece) was elected last time aged 22, but temporarily stepped aside from politics before this year’s election, partly due to differences with her aunt.  She clearly disagreed with some of the party’s present direction, being both more socially conservative than Marine on issues such as same-sex marriage; more traditionally ‘hardline’ on racial/religious/immigration questions; less interested in appeasing international Zionism; and less concerned with pursuing quasi-socialist appeals to working-class voters.

27-year-old Marion Maréchal Le Pen, seen here with her grandfather FN founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, stood down at this election and is temporarily withdrawing from politics after disagreements with her aunt Marine Le Pen.

27-year-old Marion Maréchal Le Pen, seen here with her grandfather FN founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, stood down at this election and is temporarily withdrawing from politics after disagreements with her aunt Marine Le Pen.

Marion Maréchal’s Vaucluse constituency was in a prosperous region of South West France, contrasting with her aunt’s working-class power base in the far north. Her successor Hervé de Lépinau finished second with 31.8%, qualifying for next week’s second round but faces a tough battle with En Marche! candidate Brune Poirson, who topped the first round with 32.1%.

Similarly the FN’s other 2012 victor – barrister and Marine Le Pen loyalist Gilbert Collard – has a tough second round after narrowly topping the poll with 32.3%. His second-round opponent is female ex-bullfighter Marie Sara, one of several celebrity candidates for En Marche!, who took 32.2% in the first round.

One of the FN's two Assembly winners in 2012 – Gilbert Collard – is likely to lose his seat in the Gard region of the far south (part of the area once known as Languedoc).

One of the FN’s two Assembly winners in 2012 – Gilbert Collard – is likely to lose his seat in the Gard region of the far south (part of the area once known as Languedoc).

Marine Le Pen herself easily won the first round with 46.0% in her constituency near Calais, but even here she is not absolutely guaranteed election if the left rallies behind her En Marche! opponent, since the FN has already taken almost all of the right-wing vote here: the mainstream conservatives polled only 4.2% and the UKIP-style party DLF just 0.8%.

The leader of DLF – former Farage ally Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, who reneged on a proposed parliamentary pact with the FN a few weeks ago – looks to be in trouble in his constituency, a prosperous suburb south of Paris which he has represented for 20 years. He finished second with 29.8%, behind En Marche! candidate Antoine Pavamani on 35.8%. Dupont-Aignan will struggle to survive in next week’s second round.

Nicolas Dupont-Aignan (right), seen here with his former ally Nigel Farage, is likely to lose his Assembly seat after reneging on a proposed pact with the FN.

Nicolas Dupont-Aignan (right), seen here with his former ally Nigel Farage, is likely to lose his Assembly seat after reneging on a proposed pact with the FN.

Sadly it now looks impossible for the FN to hit the important total of 15 National Assembly members, which would allow it to form an official parliamentary group with significant funding and guaranteed influence on important parliamentary committees. (In this respect the collapse of the deal with Dupont-Aignan might no longer be relevant, though it had been assumed that the latter’s support could be crucial in clearing the 15-seat hurdle.)

Though 118 FN candidates have qualified for next Sunday’s second round, a likely maximum target is ten Assembly seats, though they could easily slip to five or fewer: in which case (though this would still be the second-best parliamentary election in FN history) there will be serious questions within the party as to whether Marine Le Pen’s path of modernising and “de-demonisation” has been worth pursuing.

 

 

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