2:04 p.m., September 20, 2022
Since the creation of the National Front in 1972 – which became the National Rally (RN) in 2017 – the presidency of the party has been occupied continuously by a member of the Le Pen family, Marine succeeding his father Jean-Marie in 2011. The decision of the latter to abandon the presidency to a “no Le Pen” can therefore surprise and question. It marks, at least symbolically, the end of an era. But it is also part of a broader strategy to allow Marine Le Pen to be elected President of the Republic in the 2027 elections.
A few months ago, the legitimacy and leadership of Marine Le Pen seemed particularly contested. This fragility raised the question of the very existence of his party and his personal future. The situation today is quite different.
Restored legitimacy and leadership
By managing to qualify again for the second round of the presidential election, by making people forget their calamitous debate between the two rounds of 2017 thanks to a more successful performance during that of 2022 and by finally obtaining a score in a marked improvement compared to her 2017 result (41.45% against 33.9%), Marine Le Pen managed to both ward off the external threat embodied by Eric Zemmour and Reconquête! and to strengthen his grip on the party created by his father.
The departures of figures like Gilbert Collard or Nicolas Bay for Reconquest! and the adhesion of Marion Maréchal to this same movement during the presidential campaign also contributed to clarifying the strategic and ideological line of the party around the opposition between patriots and globalists advocated by Marine Le Pen to the detriment of the right/left divide.
Read also – RN deputy Aurélien Lopez-Liguori: “We assume the ideological victories of the frontist years”
The profile of the two main contenders for his succession illustrates this point. Louis Aliot, 53, his ex-companion, is the only RN mayor of a city of more than 100,000 inhabitants (Perpignan) and has long been an important figure in the movement. Jordan Bardella, 27, is in a relationship with a niece of Marine Le Pen and represents, according to his own words, the “social current” of the party because of his modest origins. He has been Marine Le Pen’s right-hand man for several years. The two candidates do not embody a marked ideological current and are above all “marinists”.
Their duel is above all part of a generational confrontation as evidenced by, for example, the desire of the first to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the movement and the desire of the second not to weigh down.
Between unprecedented situation, opportunity to seize and success of its political line
Marine Le Pen’s choice to leave the presidency of the party seems to be the result of three phenomena: a chain of unexpected events, adaptation to a new reality and the result of a long-term strategy.
The first phenomenon concerns the unexpected election of 89 RN deputies to the National Assembly as part of a majority vote even though the RN led a minimalist legislative campaign. Marine Le Pen even went on vacation after the presidential election thinking that Emmanuel Macron would easily obtain an absolute majority to govern.
The second takes note of this relative presidential majority and the weight of the RN in the new National Assembly. The latter is today a place of power and debate where the country’s policy will be decided in part. The choice of Marine Le Pen to favor her role as head of RN deputies integrates this new situation and takes note of the high visibility it now provides.
The third refers to the de-demonization strategy put in place by Marine Le Pen upon her arrival at the head of the party, breaking with the excesses of her father and the historical positioning of the far-right party. The approach claimed for the moment by the RN in the National Assembly (neat clothes, opposition presented as constructive by announcing the possible support for certain government bills depending on the subjects, etc.), echoes this strategy. And the choice of Marine Le Pen to favor her mission as parliamentary leader allows her to be framed and pursued.
While Emmanuel Macron will not be able to run again and Jean-Luc Mélenchon has just said that he was not sure of doing so given his age, Marine Le Pen’s decision to leave the party leadership behind. on the contrary, is part of a strategy entirely geared towards the 2027 deadline.
Read also – Presidency of the National Rally: between Jordan Bardella and Louis Aliot, the match is on
Nevertheless, it involves risks from an ideological point of view. Because the failed campaign of Valérie Pécresse or the useful vote, of which Eric Zemmour seems to have been a victim on the far right at 1er turn of the presidential election, have also contributed to the new dynamic of the RN and the recent successes of Marine Le Pen.
The news centered on purchasing power concerns is clearly in line with the current positioning of the former frontist party.
What about identity issues?
But identity issues related, in particular, to immigration have not disappeared, as evidenced by the recent criticism of the migration policy of the Head of State issued by Marine Le Pen during her back-to-school speech on Sunday 18 september.
If this theme becomes central again, the recomposition movements currently at work at Reconquête! (where the influence of the Maréchal/Peltier/Bay trio is growing) and among the Republicans (where the hypothesis of an election of Eric Ciotti at the head of the party seems to prepare the way for a future presidential campaign of Laurent Wauquiez) will constitute threats when bringing together voters attached to the most radical nationalist ideas or to the right/left divide.
It will then be time to judge whether the historical party of the French extreme right under the Ve Republic retains, in the perspective of 2027 and without a member of the Le Pen family at its head, its power of attraction.
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National rally: with the departure of Marine Le Pen from the presidency of the party, a page turns
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