RN: end clap for the Le Pens?

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 latter’s decision to give up the presidency to a “no Le Pen” may therefore surprise and raise questions. 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 the leadership of Marine Le Pen seemed particularly disputed. 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 finally obtaining a score in clear improvement compared to her result of 2017 (41.45% against 33.9%), Marine Le Pen succeeded at the same time ward off the external threat embodied by Eric Zemmour and Reconquest! and to strengthen his grip on the party created by his father.

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Figure departures like Gilbert Collard or Nicolas Bay for Reconquest! and the membership 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.

Louis Aliot during a congress in November 2015.
Pablo Tupin-Noriega/Wikimedia, CC BY-NC-SA

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 its 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”.

Jordan Bardella in 2022, at the European Parliament
Jordan Bardella in 2022, at the European Parliament.
Wikimedia, CC BY-NC-SA

Their duel is mainly part of a generational confrontation as evidenced, for example, by the desire of the former to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the movement and the desire of the latter to do not dwell.

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 in the National Assembly as part of a majority vote even though the RN led a minimalist legislative campaign. Marine Le Pen had even gone to holidays 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 clothing, opposition presented as constructive by announcing possible support for certain government bills depending on the subject, 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.

Horizon 2027

While Emmanuel Macron will not be able to run again and Jean-Luc Mélenchon has just affirmed that he was not not sure to do so given her age, Marine Le Pen’s decision to leave the party leadership is on the contrary part of a strategy entirely geared towards the 2027 deadline.

Nevertheless, it involves risks from an ideological point of view. Because the failed campaign by Valérie Pécresse or the useful voteof which Eric Zemmour on the far right seems to have been a victim at 1er round of the presidential election, have also contributed to the new dynamic of the RN and the recent successes of Marine Le Pen.

News centered on the concerns of purchasing power is clearly in phase with the current positioning of the former frontist party.

What about identity issues?

But the questions of identity linked, in particular, with immigration have not disappeared, as evidenced by the recent criticism of the Head of State’s migration policy issued by Marine Le Pen during her back-to-school speech on Sunday, September 18.

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 historic party of the French far 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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RN: end clap for the Le Pens?

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