A workshop titled ‘The Future of the Front National’ was hosted on 1 February 2013 where discussions were held surrounding the impact of the Front National (FN) on French politics and its future under the leadership of Marine Le Pen.
Each paper presented focussed on different aspects of the issue and offered a convincing account of the state of the French extreme right.
Dr Aurelien Mondon, from the University of Bath, opened the workshop by discussing the process of normalisation undertaken by the party in the past three decades. Instead of describing Le Pen’s result as a shock or a surprise, by focusing on the Presidential elections since 2002, Mondon explained that the ebb and flow of the FN’s results were in fact the logical outcome of the process of mainstreaming of the party.
By highlighting the continuity in this process of the mainstreaming of extreme right politics and ideas, the paper illustrated that Marine Le Pen’s rise was in fact greatly facilitated by a decade of right-wing populism, which was given impetus by Nicolas Sarkozy’s role as President.
Professor Jim Shields, from Aston University, then provided an account of the FN’s impact on the 2012 elections and its implications for French politics. Drawing on election results at various levels and a range of opinion polling data, Shields analysed the strength of support for Le Pen and her party and identifies some determining factors in their electoral appeal. Finally, the paper also showed that the wider sympathy for Marine Le Pen and for FN policies in general is far in excess of their electoral scores, suggesting a substantial reservoir of untapped potential support.
Dr Rainbow Murray, from Queen Mary, University of London, explored the impact of Marine Le Pen’s leadership on the most masculine party in France. Murray argued that Le Pen’s image immediately changed the face of the party to one that was younger, softer and more feminine. Further, the paper highlighted the way in which some of her policy proposals have either become less explicitly anti-feminist, or have been repackaged to make them appear less antagonistic towards women, and led to the image of the party improving among women voters, and to the gender gap in the FN’s electorate narrowing considerably in the 2012 elections. However, a closer look at the substance of the FN’s policies revealed that the party retains a chauvinist ideology.
Finally, Dr Nicholas Startin, from the University of Bath, offered a comparative analysis of the contrasting fortunes of the Front National and the British National Party. By concentrating primarily on ‘ supply side’ theories of the rise of the Far Right, Startin explained the contrasting electoral fortunes and potential durability of these two parties. The paper examined the importance of variables such as charismatic leadership, the role of the media and political opportunity structures in order to account for their differing electoral performances.
The workshop which was attended by more over 30 delegates seemed a great success and was praised for its overall continuity in terms of the four contributions. A themed section dedicated to the future of the Front National – in particular the Marine Le Pen effect – based on the findings of the four contributions from the workshop will be published in 2014 in Modern and Contemporary France.
For further detail about the event or future events, please contact:
Dr Aurelien Mondon
Dr Nicholas Startin