Marine Le Pen in trouble


IF nothing succeeds like success, then maybe it is also true that nothing fails like failure. And it would appear that France’s neo-fascist National Front is just now finding this out. Following Marine Le Pen’s drubbing in the presidential election by Emanuel Macron, the fortunes of her Islamophobic party have been on the slide.

This is in part to do with the disappointment of those who clambered eagerly onto the National Front racist bandwagon when it seemed close to power. Le Pen originally tried to characterize her defeat as a calculated move on the French political chessboard, advancing her black pawn so that she could turn herself into the black queen at the 2022 presidential contest. But this was to assume the pieces on the board would stay the same. In truth the victory of Macron and his pop-up party France En Marche has swept aside the old political establishment.

Le Pen and her euroskeptism coupled with her racist agenda had positioned herself as the upstart who could remake French politics. Instead it was the upstart Macron who seized the crown as voters, who had despaired of the socialist and center-right parties, united behind him. Macron also benefited from the grudging support of those, particularly socialists, who were determined to keep Le Pen away from the Elysee Palace. But the fresh-faced and charismatic Macron is still considered as a temporary phenomenon supported by inexperienced legislators with no proper party machine behind him.

Vanquished politicians have been regrouping and reforming. Of real concern to Le Pen is the emergence of Laurent Wauquiez as the leader of the defeated Republican Party who is making a clear bid for her supporters. There was therefore a note of desperation at the weekend when she told her party that it was to rebrand itself as the Rassemblement National, a name that echoed General Charles de Gaulle’s 1958 national unity government.

The decision was not greeted with unanimous approval. Hardcore supporters complained that it smacked of defeatism and that their leader was throwing away a high-recognition brand. A split in the party is possible with Le Pen’s estranged and bitter father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, mocking his daughter’s attempts to “detoxify” the overtly fascist party he founded.

He is probably wrong. Le Pen proved herself no less toxic at the weekend when she equated President Macron’s “grinning and triumphant globalism” with what she said was “the scourge” of Islamist ideology. And there is also the fact that the National Front’s new name not only references de Gaulle’s unity government but also the wartime party Rassemblement National Populaire which between 1941 and 1944 advocated close collaboration with Hitler’s occupying Nazis.

Nevertheless, the overall impression of Le Pen’s weekend is that her party is in disarray having seen its Islamophobic policies decisively rejected by the French electorate. More importantly, even though the Republican party of Francois Fillon sought to steal some of the National Front’s racist clothes, it too was wasted in the first round. The splintering of bigoted far right politicians is only to be welcomed. Bickering fascists pose far less of a threat to France’s political stability. The National Front was the first neo-fascist party to really raise its loathsome head in post-war Europe. It must be hoped that its troubles will soon extend to racist parties in other countries.