The Front National’s new clothes
This excerpt from ‘Le Front National (FN), entre extrémisme, populisme et démocratie’, by Michel Wieviorka, published as part of Counterpoint’s ‘Europe’s Reluctant Radicals’ project, examines the new face of the FN, highlighting its nuanced relationships with the ‘invisible’ and the ‘forgotten’.
The succession battle to fill the post of Front National President (held by Jean Marie Le Pen since 1972) in 2011 pitted his daughter, Marine Le Pen (who, it has to be said, won without much difficulty) against Bruno Gollnisch. The latter embodied the values of the ‘early FN’, those of the membership base, and was generally seen as the keeper of the party’s ‘identity’. Marine Le Pen, imposed a noticeably different discourse on the Front National, one much more in keeping with the mood of a sizeable portion of the population. Marine Le Pen now leads a party that could be in the throes of a deep transformation – she could, in the words of the journalists Caroline Monnot and Abel Mestre in their Enquête sur les réseaux du Front national (Paris, Denoël, 2011), herald the beginning of a ‘new FN’.
The campaign for the local/cantonal elections in March 2011 was the first opportunity to test the discursive turn effected by the new President; the 2012 presidential campaign brought confirmation that the new turn is indeed here to stay.