What next for far right
13 May, 2017
French far-right leader Marine Le Pen will not rule France. Ultimately, she had been soundly defeated in the final round of presidential elections, receiving just under 34% of the vote. Her National Front party’s expectations saw French voters from many different demographics rallying to oppose her election. But Le Pen’s election result, though worse than polls predicted, is still the best that France’s far right has ever performed. This movement is unlikely to fade from France’s political scene any time soon.
The National Front has been embedded in French politics for decades, and over the long term, support for Europe’s far-right populists has been growing amid the collapse of traditional party systems. Failure to capitalise on the new surge of support for the party could hurt Le Pen internally, leading to increased criticism of her leadership. But Le Pen still commands power within the National Front and has steered the party to unprecedented levels of popularity, establishing a strong base among younger voters.
In her concession speech on 7 May, she acknowledged that the National Front would need to undergo a “deep transformation”. Party Vice President Florian Philippot told reporters that this could include renaming the party entirely. But analysts say a name change may not be enough to shift public perception of the party, as long as it adheres to Islamophobic and nativist views.
If Le Pen does want to reform the party, she would have to do so quickly, as critical parliamentary elections are approaching next month. The National Front has only two out of 577 seats in France’s Parliament and is looking to make enough gains to become a major opposition party.