12/6/16 | Bobby Scalia | Regular Correspondent
On The Surface
Marine Le Pen is the leader of the far-right French National Front. She advocates populism and reduced immigration, and is currently the frontrunner to be France’s next president. Le Pen’s political history, neo-conservative stances, and surprisingly high chances of winning when the French presidential election mark her a unique candidate.
If there is one thing Marine Le Pen is not, it is a newcomer to the world of politics. Born in 1968, she is the daughter of controversial politician Jean-Marie Le Pen. At the age of 18, she joined her father’s party, the National Front (FN), and by 1998 she led its judicial branch. In 2006, Le Pen was the Vice President of her party and began the effort to bolster the FN’s image. Finally in 2010, Le Pen succeeded her father as the President of the National Front.
Le Pen first ran for President in 2012 with the FN’s nomination. She finished in the race with 17.9% of the first-ballot vote. Then-incumbent Nicholas Sarkozy (27.18%) and current president Francois Hollande (28.63%) both beat her. Since then she has attempted to soften her image and broaden her appeal. In 2015 she took a significant step toward this goal when she ousted her father from the Front for his anti-Semitic remarks.
While Le Pen has made attempts to broaden her ideology, many of her policies remain on on the far right. Most notably, Le Pen has promised the French voters a referendum, in the likeness of Britain’s, to exit the E.U. Commonly known as “Frexit,” it may to prove fatal to the European Union if it passes. Le Pen also supports a Trump-esque anti-immigration and anti-trade platform. As recently as 2015 she was quoted saying, “Immigration is an organized replacement of our population. This threatens our very survival. We don’t have a means to integrate those who are already here. The result is endless cultural conflict.”
Le Pen is attracting wide voter appeal in France in three decisive areas:
- Many older, patriotic, traditionally conservative voters support Le Pen for her anti-immigration policies. Calls for a return to France’s better days have proved appealing to this demographic.
- The economic lower class is also prone to support Le Pen. Under Francois Hollande, France has faced rising unemployment in general and many college-educated youths are unable to find jobs right out of college. Some blame immigrants for taking their jobs, while others blame the EU. Either way, these people are set to vote for Mrs. Le Pen as the anti-immigrant, or anti-global trade candidate.
- Finally, many people who are fed up with the two party system dominate Le Pen’s growing base. In the last five years the traditional French establishment has been tainted by red tape and slow movement. French parliament has struggled to pass reforms and the economy has stagnated. Many voters see Marine Le Pen as an anti-establishment candidate and hope she can drain the “swamp.”
Chances of Winning
A decade ago, a Le Pen ticket would’ve been laughed off. However, due to the European Migrant Crisis, and the radical Islamic terrorist attacks on France this year, Le Pen has emerged as a frontrunner. Her chances of reaching the second round in France’s two round runoff are essentially are very high. Once in second round, however, winning will become more difficult. Victory will be contingent upon effective mobilization. Already her campaign received a serious boost when her main competitor, Alain Juppe, was defeated in his party’s primaries by outsider François Fillon.
In a year that gave the U.S. a Donald Trump presidency and the E.U. a Brexit, it may be more than likely that France find itself with a far-right leader. Le Pen’s rise emphasizes growing populist, anti-immigrant, anti-globalization trends in western democracies. Whether she wins or loses, the unprecedented success of her candidacy is something to note
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Haddad, Benjamin. “Marine Le Pen Ousts Her Dad, Keeps His Repulsive French Populist Party.” The Daily Beast. The Daily Beast Company, 21 Aug. 15. Web. 30 Nov. 2016.
Payton, Matt. “Marine Le Pen Could Win Presidential Election in 2017, French PM Admits.” The Independent. Independent Digital News and Media, 17 Nov. 2016. Web. 30 Nov. 2016.
Sandford, Alasdair. “What Do We Know about Marine Le Pen’s Policies?” Euronews. N.p., 16 Nov. 2016. Web. 30 Nov. 2016.