The Strategist

Marine Le Pen sets to renew the National Front. Will it help?

02/20/2018 - 14:35

On the eve of the March congress of the French extreme right-wing National Front party (FN), its leader Marine Le Pen said that she was ready to change the name to a more peaceful one and give way to a "more suitable" candidate in the next presidential election.

theglobalpanorama via flickr
theglobalpanorama via flickr
The hype surrounding the National Front has risen in connection with the two upcoming congresses of the party: one will be held in Lille on March 10-11 this year (it will discuss how to get the party out of the crisis), and another - not long before the presidential election-2022. "At the congress preceding this election, the elected head of the party will become a presidential candidate," said current leader of the FN Marine Le Pen at a meeting with representatives of the foreign media. She also added that she was ready, if the members of the party so decide, to refuse her place as the head of the National Front and to a "more suitable" candidate. She went even further in her promise of reform, noting that the very name "National Front" was outdated: "We must signal that we will be a movement capable of uniting people, and not exclusively" the front "- there is something military about this name" .

The idea of Marine Le Pen is understandable. In the spring of 2017, she won 33.9% of the vote, losing in the second round to her more successful rival Emmanuel Macron. The latter managed to unite leftists, centrists and rightists. Another former candidate, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, took a similar move, bringing together the left and the ultra-left. Thus, Marine Le Pen follows the general fashion to attract as many voters as possible, albeit with different political views. This is not only her desire, but also a necessity. The National Front (whatever it’s called) has to form a powerful coalition of all those who sympathize with the right. Otherwise, the recently elected head of the right-wing Republicans of Laurent Marie Wauquiez will make the same choice for the representatives of the moderate FN wing.

Until now, FN supporters considered themselves the "essence" of France and reluctantly went to unions. However, Marine Le Pen made the first concession, inviting Nicolas Dupont-Aignan as her ally in the second round of the presidential elections (he used similar slogans and scored 4.7% of the vote in the first round). Now, in her opinion, it is time for a broader coalition of right-wing forces.

The ambitious plans of party reform can be hampered by internal problems. After the defeat of Marine Le Pen in the presidential election, her former deputy Florian Philippot (he founded his own movement Patriots after leaving FN) already left the party. Mrs. Le Pen’s advancement is also hindered by an exhausting quarrel with her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, who has not spoken to his daughter for a long time and has already called apostasy the rejection of the brand invented back in 1972. "From the objective point of view, this is completely absurd. Subjectively, this is a betrayal of the history of the movement. This is unacceptable and suspicious," he said in an interview with Le Journal du Dimanche and confirmed that, despite his formal exclusion from the party, he intends to attend the congress and enter into a dispute with his daughter if she does not meet him.

Another important issue is the potential candidate for a new leader. Until now, the National Front has been a typical party of the cult of personality: the founding father Jean-Marie Le Pen, then his daughter Marine Le Pen first led the FN head. Once they started talking about the further transfer of power to the young ambitious Marion Maréchal-Le Pen. Yet, she announced that she was leaving politics in May 2017. By the way, Marine Le Pen did not exclude the possibility of the return of her niece: "She can return if she wants."

At the same time, according to experts, the prospects for the growth of popularity of FN are limited: the party reached its limits, being blocked by archaic and stagnant management. The FN could become a national force could, saying goodbye not only to the name, but also to the reputation of the "Le Pen family party". It is not clear, however, whether the leadership of the party and Marine Le Pen personally are ready for this. Otherwise, the announced update will serve only to identify rivals and clean up the ranks within the second-strength party of France.


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