Ahead of France’s vote on Sunday, Marine Le Pen suggested she would not run again if she made a third attempt to propel the far right to the presidency. However, her concession speech suggested she was not ready to cede opposition leadership to the newly elected Emmanuel Macron.
The 53-year-old, who just won the party’s top score of 41.5 percent, said on Sunday she “will never give up on the people” and vowed to keep fighting in June’s legislative elections. “More than ever, I will keep my promise to France and the French,” she assured cheering supporters.
Her defeat in the presidential runoff, however, has sparked accusations of her limitations as a statesman and the incoherence of her plans, and raised lingering questions about how xenophobic and anti-Semitic views of stance, whether her surname is still toxic to many French people. Her father and party founder Jean-Marie Le Pen.
The key is who will be able to lead an expanded far-right political force, which has grown with the emergence of anti-immigrant politician Eric Zemore and the fall of the Republican Party, whose presidential nominee has gained less than 5 percent votes. First round on April 10.
Béziers far-right mayor Robert Menard, who supports Le Pen but is not a member of her National Party, says her political potential is limited by a “glass ceiling”.
Maynard said she “paid a price” for her chaotic position in Europe, using “nonsense” economic policies to appeal to left-wing voters and being too pro-Russian. “She had her best campaign ever and still lost by a wide margin – that doesn’t bode well for the future.”
Le Pen’s defeat illustrates the so-called Republican Front, Political scientist Pascal Perino said the tactical vote by most voters to prevent the far right from gaining power remains steadfast. It has eroded over the past 20 years, but Macron has banned the wearing of the Islamic hijab in public by warning that Le Pen’s victory would lead France down a “dictatorial path” or even “inspire a civil war”. space, he said during a televised debate.
To dismantle such a fortress, the far-right may need a new leader whose last name is not Le Pen, Perino said.
“This is likely to be the end of a decades-long cycle of one family-dominated French far-right,” he said. “If the far right is going to take power, they will need a new person to embody the movement. But it’s hard to see who that person will be.”
Le Pen’s next mission to win as many parliamentary seats as possible in June will require a decision on whether to work with Zemmour, whose Reconquête party has poached high-profile RN figures and allies — including her charismatic niece Marion Maréchal — Join his campaign.
The former columnist underscored the need to unite with 7 percent of the vote in the first round. Zemour couldn’t resist a barb, however, when there were signs on Sunday that competition could be holding back: “Alas . . . this is the eighth defeat to Le Pen’s name,” he said, comparing Le Pen’s loss to Her father’s loss is comparable.
RN officials said there would be no comprehensive agreement between the two parties, but hinted that some arrangements could be made for individual constituencies.
“Our goal is to bring all the patriots together to prevent Macron from taking full power and rudely treating the millions who didn’t vote for him,” said RN MEP Philippe Olivier.
The two-round election system for the lower house of the French parliament is not helping. Only candidates with more than 12.5 percent of the registered votes advance to the runoff, which often results in intense negotiations and deals between the parties. French voters are also inclined to grant the newly elected president the ability to implement his plans.
In 2017, the RN won just eight seats in the 577-seat National Assembly, below the 15 needed to create a parliamentary bloc, while Macron’s party won 267.
Marine Le Pen has won more voters since taking over her father’s National Front in 2011, thanks in part to her efforts to “detoxify” it by removing its most blatant elements of racism and anti-Semitism. She kicked her father out of the house in 2015 and changed her name to Dang in 2018.
While French voters are now generally more in line with the party’s original anti-immigration stance — 70 percent of voters now say they are concerned about immigration — Le Pen has developed an economic platform that focuses on public spending to appeal to the working class. In this year’s campaign, she has focused on the rising cost of living and EU skepticism.
Le Pen’s 26-year-old No. 2 Jordan Valdera noted that this time she won in 28 of France’s 101 divisions, compared with just two in 2017. “Next time, we’ll go all the way,” he said.
Marion Maréchal, 32, now vice president of Reconquête and expected to run for parliament, may try to position herself as the far-right’s new standard-bearer. But Perino said it was a “huge mistake” that she supported Zemore and betrayed her aunt.
“She could have waited for her time and position as the rightful heir without the baggage of Le Pen’s name, but she has given up on it all,” Perino said.
Sipping champagne at a Le Pen election night party in Paris’ 16th arrondissement on Sunday night, Nadine Guillemet, a longtime RN voter from Versailles, said she hoped the warring factions would live in peace given the many problems facing France. “They all need to work together.”