French far-right leader Marine Le Pen hopes to move away from risky past by changing the name of her party

| OP-ED |

We were originally a protest party, there should be no doubt now that we can be a ruling party.

Marine Le Pen wants to rebrand The National Front, the far-right french political party and call it the National Rally (Rassemblement Populaire), in order to broaden its appeal and give us the desire to get all together to claim our rights. It sounds like a beautiful idea, right ? Who is convinced ? Well, not me. Think about it again: the National Rally is in fact really close to the National Popular Rally (Rassemblement National Populaire) which was a French political party, known as the main collaborationist parties during World War II. The populist far-right leader symbolizes a greater danger for the French democracy now that she intends to normalize the party, to de-demonize it, as she has said to the press. The National Front was initially founded by her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, in the early 1970’s and clearly had an extremist identity, aiming to gather ideologies such as die-hards, fascists or neo-nazis. He was excluded from the party in 2015 after threatening its normalization process by, for instance, qualifying the World War II’s gas chambers as a detail. Since 2010, his daughter’s attempt to refund the party will make it easier to form alliances, especially locally, and to gather more patriots attached to the French Republic values. In Lille, last weekend, Ms Le Pen explained that for a lot of French people, the current name is a psychological barrier and that Front induces opposition and the fact of being against something. Nowadays, she aims to change the identity of her party to be able to fully participate in the political life and mobilize more citizens – and that is why I want to raise your awareness before you could get trapped.

The National Front presents itself as a populist party and that is what Ms Le Pen innocently reminded us last Sunday, during her speech in Lille. She did -of course – not forget to critique elites (in Macron’s France, to be on the move is to be a nomad, just like migrants and tax evaders), neither to legitimate the exclusion of others with focusing on national security and immigration: “Legal and illegal immigration are no longer bearable”. Both populism and democracy refer to the constitutive idea of popular sovereignty even though the populist logic considers the people as completely homogeneous, as if they represented a harmonious mass. However, it definitely appears like a paradox since populism claims to bring back democracy to the people but aims to suppress the diversity of opinions which is in a way what legitimates democracy. In other words, Marine Le Pen breaks with the democratic logic by rejecting deliberation between various opinions and interests, something democracy is definitely supposed to embody.

The last French presidential elections demonstrated how Ms Le Pen took advantage of many French citizens: 34% voted to elect a leader who embodies danger for the French democratic values pronouncing violent racist and xenophobe discourses. A lot of French were disappointed and angry about the previous Hollande’s government, and, sadly, as a result, a rise of the extremes took place: many thought voting for a far-right party would improve our daily lives. The National Front’s efforts to be normalized victimize an increasing number of citizens and, at the same time, our democracy. That is how Thierry Mariani, a conservative old minister, advocated in an interview with Le Journal du dimanche last Sunday, that “The National Front has evolved and that The Republicans (Les Républicains) should considerate an alliance with them”. This will probably lead to escalate support for Ms Le Pen ideology in the upcoming European elections, in May 2019, during which she aims to be successful in converting others to her virulent Euroscepticism.

Finally, I understand that some voters get trapped thinking the party and its values changed, but we need to deconstruct speeches to realize that nothing really changed. Every week, the National Front continues to attract French headlines speaking about its rise but the more we talk about them, the easier it will be for them to gather votes. We need to understand that politics and – living together in harmony – are more complex notions than what Ms Le Pen and her fellows present as the struggle of nationalists. Stay united in our diversity.


Door/by: Emilie Moncaut – exchange student Sociology
Foto/Image: Wikimedia Commons 2018


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