Patrick J. O Brien

Why France’s nationalist revolution is ‘a wake up call’ as the EU takes a sharp turn right

Marine Le Pen ready to conquer French politics (Image courtesy of author)
Marine Le Pen ready to conquer French politics (Image courtesy of author)
Patrick O Brien believes that the victory for Europe’s center-right parties in recent elections shouldn’t have been too much of a shock for anyone paying attention to the angry mood among many of Europe’s young voters, who have not only embraced hard-line anti-immigration views but seem prouder than ever to spread and voice them.
After a lifelong stride through French institutions, Marine Le Pen is ready not only to conquer but to consolidate her victory.  Her family name is arguably a stronger far-right brand than her political party, National Rally. The Le Pen name is infamous but for the young voters who are supporting Le Pen’s party in such numbers, they have little or no memory of Marine’s father, the party’s controversial first president Jean-Marie. Her father built the National Front on a foundation of pro-French, anti-immigration rhetoric. In 2002, he became the first far-right candidate to make it through to the second round of voting in a presidential election. But he also had a penchant for courting controversy, often with racist or anti-Semitic remarks. It has suited Macron, and like-minded European leaders, to portray their upstart opponents as neo-fascists. But this strategy is losing its hold. The new parties are being judged on the merit of their arguments and in the case of National Rally, most of these involve attacking Macron from the left.

For Macron, first came the shock of the European elections, when France’s electoral map was transformed as the hard right Rassemblement Nationale (National Rally) swept into first place. RN candidate Jordan Bardella, a young protégé of party leader Marine Le Pen, obliterated the ruling camp by garnering over 31 percent of the vote, thereby more than doubling its number of voters. The far-right’s influence has thus never been greater in post-war France and Europe, as the RN is sending 30 of France’s 81 MEPs to the European Parliament, making it the biggest delegation ahead of the conservative German CDU/CSU alliance. Rather than accept this crushing defeat, President Emmanuel Macron has conjured up out of thin air the biggest political crisis for decades. Alone, without consulting ministers, Macron called a snap election for France’s own legislature, the National Assembly. Two rounds of voting will be held on June 30 and July 7.

The National Rally, is now well established and represents the largest parliamentary opposition group in the lower house of the parliament. Le Pen made it twice to the second round of the presidential elections after her father Jean-Marie Le Pen did it in 2002. The normalization strategy has paid off and the party has become mainstream, developing a strong network of officials across France.  Macron’s power practice has sometimes bordered on authoritarianism. The controversial pensions reform was forced through parliament without a vote, a reform symbolically pushed through by the only female prime minister of Macron’s, and the second ever in France: the “woman from the left”, socialist Élisabeth Borne.

But as uncertainties regarding the turnout and motivation of voters are considerable, it is too early to anticipate any outcome of the upcoming elections. Whether the dissolution is a risky bet or a scheming move, European issues are already yesterday’s news and France has signed up for a messy political landscape, if not a financial crisis.

Even though the far right candidates are highly unlikely to be able to coordinate as a unified group inside the European Parliament, thanks to divisions on topics such as Russia, they will still be able to influence the overall direction of the EU, on everything from immigration to climate policies. Collected together, the radical right parties would theoretically represent the second biggest bloc in the EU Parliament being on track to come first in France and Italy, and second in Germany, the three biggest and most important countries in the 27-nation bloc. In Italy, Giorgia Meloni’s right-wing party secured the most support, projected to be about 28 percent.Since becoming Italy’s prime minister,

As Europes’ political landscape takes hold  its clear that he lack of historical baggage, coupled with the strange death of center-left parties in many parts of Europe, has allowed the far right to appear respectable and armed with economic solutions to young people’s problems.

About the Author
Patrick J O Brien is an acclaimed journalist and Director of Exante who has been working in the media for almost 25 years. Patrick who hails from Ireland is based in Malta and a contributor to some of the world’s leading financial and political magazines. Recently he returned from Ukraine where he was reporting at ground level on the escalation of war and spent time documenting the work of the Red Cross and many human right organisations