July 18, 2024

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The relentless rise of France’s far right

2 min read

Sitting on the terrace of a café, Daniel, a 60-year-old retired building contractor, is reluctant to talk about how he will vote in upcoming high-stakes snap legislative elections in France. 

But the resident of Châteauroux, a small city in the centre of the country, has a lot of anger to vent against Emmanuel Macron. He believes the president is smug like the elites in Paris, has done little to curb rising crime and his move to increase the retirement age by two years is unfair.

The traditional left and rightwing parties that Daniel has voted for in the past have disappointed, so he is considering casting a first ballot for Marine Le Pen’s far-right Rassemblement National.

“I’m not saying I will definitely vote for the RN, but they have interesting things to say,” he says, such as the need to clamp down on immigration. He is not put off by the party’s historical roots in fascism, symbolised by its now 95-year-old founder, Jean-Marie Le Pen, who once likened the Nazi gas chambers to a “detail of history”.

“This is not Jean-Marie Le Pen’s party any more,” says Daniel, who asked not to use his surname, “and it’s dishonest to keep pretending it is.”

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Voters across France are grappling with a similar choice: are they ready to usher the nationalist, populist RN, once relegated to the fringes of politics, into the heart of government? 

The answer will come in just over three weeks at the end of a lightning campaign sparked by Macron’s shock call for early legislative elections after being trounced by the RN in European elections on June 9. 

The outcome of the snap poll on June 30 and the second round on July 7 will depend largely on whether voters see the RN of today — the one that Marine Le Pen has spent more than a decade crafting into a smoother, more professional force — as up to the task.


2024-06-14 14:22:00

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