The Impact Of Le Pen And The

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The Impact Of Le Pen And The National Front On French Politics Essay, Research Paper Over the last fifteen years the Front National in France has risen from being an obscure and insignificant actor to one of the more visible and most discussed parties in French politics. The Front, led by Jean-Marie Le Pen, has managed to attract a sizable proportion of the electorate in nearly every election at every level of government over this time period. The support the FN has garnered can be attributed to the populist themes it addresses in its policy platform – law and order, immigration and unemployment. This essay examines the rapid ascent of Le Pen and his party, and the circumstances that made the rise feasible. It also analyses the FN’s policies and their subsequent effects

on French politics and society. Finally, the Front National’s electorate and future in French politics is investigated. The Rise of Le Pen and the FN Jean-Marie Le Pen, who lost his left eye in a political brawl,1 began his political career long before the conception of the FN. As a lieutenant to Pierre Poujade, the leader of the Poujadist movement,2 Le Pen became a member of the National Assembly from 1956 to 1958. During this time he acquired many of the values and ideals on which he later used to formulate the Front’s platform. After his stint in the National Assembly, Le Pen traveled to then colonized Algeria and saw active duty as a paratrooper officer. The years leading up to the naming of Le Pen as leader of the FN were comparatively calm to the years he would spend

with the Front. The Front National’s creation in 1972 with Le Pen at the helm, might be described as anything but auspicious. During the first decade of its existence, it remained at best a fringe party with a radical and extreme right wing slant. In the Presidential election of 1974, which was won by the moderate right’s Valery Giscard d’Estaing over the Socialist Francois Mitterand, Le Pen managed to obtain only 0.75 per cent of the vote. In fact seven years later he failed to procure the five-hundred elected sponsors needed to run in the French election.3 The FN survived these disappointments and were soon revived by an unexpected resurgence of the extreme right only two years later. A reversal of fortunes occurred for the Front in isolated municipal and National

Assembly by-elections in 1983, where they amassed close to 11 per cent of the vote. The following year in June, they built upon their success by compiling a surprising 11 per cent of the national vote in elections to the European Parliament, enabling them to send 10 delegates to Strasbourg.4 Despite this success many observers, such as Subrata Mitra, maintained that the success of the Front would be short-lived and fade as suddenly as they had originated, Movements that rise almost out of nowhere and shoot into political prominence within a short span of time, basing their appeal on a relatively restricted platform and drawing support from across established political and sociological cleavages are sometimes referred to as single-issue movements… Characteristically, the

single-issue movement galvanizes support from different political camps on the basis of a single, all- encompassing issue, and, predictably, disappears once the issue has been articulated and aggregated into the political agenda.5 The meteoric rise of the Front National, coupled with the narrow platform of the party, appeared to make it vulnerable to the changing focus of French Politics. In the 1986 legislative elections the FN managed to secure 10 per cent of the vote and elected 35 deputies under a system of proportional representation. Why didn’t the FN fade and vanish like the Poujadists of the 1950s or other ’single-issue’ movements? The political and economic instability of the 1970s created a much more hospitable climate for the FN, than the Poujadist movement of