Far right in France breaks into parliament and further into the mainstream

PARIS – In 2017, after the far-right leader Marine Le Pen and her allies won only a handful of seats in the parliamentary elections, she blamed the French two-round voting system for her party’s failure to enter parliament despite having over a million ballots cast in its favour.

“We are eight” she said bitterly, referring to the seats her party won in the National Assembly, the lower and more powerful house of parliament. “In my opinion, we’re worth 80.”

Fast forward parliamentary elections last week. The voting system has not changed, but with 89 newly elected deputies – an absolute record for her party, now known as the National Rally. Le Pen is now shining.

On Wednesday she hugged her new colleagueskissing cheeks left and right before leading them to the National Assembly and posing for a group photo.

Fueled by anger against Mr. Macron and thanks to the collapse of the “Republican Front” that the main parties and voters have traditionally built against the far right, the results came as a shock even within the ranks of the National Rally.

“I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t surprised,” said Philippe Olivier, Ms. Chourin and Le Pen’s special adviser, who called the party’s 89 seats in the 577-seat National Assembly a “tidal wave.”

The National Rally is currently the second largest party in Parliament after Mr Macron, who lost the absolute majority and is now struggling to muster enough legislators to pass his bills, potentially forcing him to work with the intensified opposition.

In an interview with the Agence France-Presse news agency on Saturday, M. Macron said that he had addressed the Prime Minister Elizabeth Born hold consultations with parliamentary groups to form a “new government of action” to be named early next month.

He added that the new government could include representatives from all over the political landscape, with the exception of the far-left Insubdued France party and Ms. K. Le Pen’s party, which he says he does not consider “the party of the government.”

The National Association does not have enough legislators to push through its own bills, and it will be difficult for it to find allies in parliament. But thanks to an increase in public funding based on election results, winning seats has become a financial boon for a heavily indebted party.

Importantly, for the first time since the 1980s, he has enough seats to form a parliamentary group – the only way to gain influence in the lower house.

National Rally MPs can now pass a no-confidence vote, demand a revision of the law by the Constitutional Council, set up ad hoc committees of inquiry, hold top parliamentary positions, and use the new amount of speaking time and amendment opportunity to nudge and nudge the government. and slow down or block the legislative process.

“During the previous term, there was a two-day debate on immigration,” he said. Olivier recalled. “We had five minutes of talking time!”

RS. Le Pen said her party will seek positions traditionally reserved for opposition groups, including vice president of the National Assembly and leadership of the powerful finance committee that controls the state budget.

Analysts say this established parliamentary presence could further anchor the far right in France’s political landscape, providing an invaluable launching pad for future elections.

“I think Marine Le Pen understands that this is really the last test,” she said. Jean Yves Camusco-director of the Observatory for Radical Politics of the Jean Jaurès Foundation, a progressive research institute.

Many voters, even those who might agree with her proposals, still doubt the capabilities of her party. noticed Camus. Now, he says, she will try to show that, like other far-right populist parties in Europe, her party can use the institutional mechanism from the inside rather than oppose it from the outside.

mr. Olivier said his party will try to push through legislation on its favorite topics, including cutting value-added taxes on energy and essential goods, drastically reducing immigration and strengthening police powers. But he said his party would also be a “constructive opposition” and not a “troublemaker.”

“If Macron proposes a bill on nuclear energy, we will vote for it,” he said. “If the bill goes in the right direction, we will look into it.”

RS. Le Pen got busy a long and thoughtful strategy to “demonize“Her party and expand its electorate. After her defeat by Mr. Macron in 2017, she tried to strengthen her authority and rename her party from their extremist roots.

Many of the new far-right legislators entered politics during this era of change and learned the basics as city councilors or parliamentary aides who tried to be strict and break with the excesses of some of the longtime party aides often associated with anti-Semitism and anti-Semitism. xenophobia.

“A little fresh blood and a few new faces can’t hurt,” said Brian Masson, who took the seat in the Alpes-Maritimes region of southern France. BFM TV last Monday. At 25, he is one of the youngest members of parliament after ten years of National Rally activism, first as a local youth chapter leader and then as a regional councilor.

RS. Le Pen has also abandoned ideas that have alienated mainstream voters, such as a proposal to leave the eurozone that helped her win 41.5 percent of the vote in April’s presidential election, up eight points from 2017.

This was not enough to defeat Mr. Macron, who called for a “republican front” – a long-standing strategy in which mainstream voters put aside political divisions in order to support anyone but the far right in the second round of voting.

This front has weakened in recent yearsHowever, it appeared to have collapsed last week amid growing polarization in French politics around three sharply opposed blocs: Mr. Macron’s broad pro-globalist center, Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s far-right and far-left parties, France Steadfast.

Over the weekend, the National Rally won half of its runoff matches against candidates from the pro-Trump alliance of parties. Macron, compared to less than one in 10 in previous legislative elections.

For many in the city, Macron’s party has put the far right on a near-equal footing with Mr Macron. Mélenchon’s left coalition, saying both were extremeAccording to recent poll.

“These legislative elections were very much like midterm elections,” he said, despite the fact that they took place just two months after Mr Macron’s election victory.

But the National Association’s new presence in parliament is a double-edged sword, analysts say.

RS. Mr. Pen has to balance between himself in order to “be almost completely normalized, while remaining the aggressor.” Camus said that because the party is fully aligning itself with the political system, it has long been denounced as inefficient and corrupt.

“What brought voters to the National Assembly was that they were an anti-establishment party,” he added.

Now they are in the heart of the institution.