• The far-right candidate is running for her third presidential election and has never before been so close to power

It will be the last time? The French far-right Marine LePen, 53, is running for his third presidential election and has never before been so close to power. After having failed in his electoral assault on the Elysee in 2012 and 2017, the polls predict between 43% and 47% of the votes in his duel with President Emmanuel Macron. This leader, converted in the past decade into a referent of a European extreme right that tried to dye the indignation provoked by the 2008 crisiscaresses a victory at the polls as unlikely as longed for by her own, despite the fact that many considered her a political zombie at the start of this presidential race.

Le Pen likes to brag about her passion for cats. If popular happiness grants seven lifes to these felines, the ultra applicant should give at least eight. ‘The National Front (FN, renamed National Rally in 2018) is in crisis’. This headline has become a classic of the French press in recent decades. Every time the media speculated on his decline, he managed to increase his support in the following presidential elections. This 2022 campaign perfectly exemplifies the double game of stressing the system and conforming to it, carried out by lepenismo in the last 50 years, to weaken the antibodies of French democracy to ultranationalism and xenophobia.

Closely linked to Jean-Marie Le Pen

Despite her family disputes, the figure of Marine Le Pen is closely linked to that of his father Jean-Marie, 93 years old, founder of the FN in 1972. Born in 1968 in the wealthy town of Neuilly-sur-Seine (northwest of Paris), she herself assures that she became interested in politics since she was 8 years old when her family suffered a terrorist attack. the explosion of 20 kilograms of explosive in his family home. Ten years later, she became a member of her father’s party. After having Degree in Law at the Paris Pantheon Assas University — known as the right-wing Sciences Po — and having worked for a few years as a lawyer, from the end of the 1990s, when she was 30 years old, she devoted herself to institutional politics.

He first achieved his election in 1998 as a regional deputy and in 2004 as a representative of the European Parliament, where he held a seat for thirteen years. In both cases he obtained it in the constituency of the Altos de Francia region (north), a territory harshly shaken by deindustrialization and converted into a political laboratory of ‘Marinism’. This consists of a political style that managed to channel the indignation and resentment of the ‘France of the forgotten, made up of those rural and peri-urban territories that suffer from social declassification and whose main strongholds are the north and southeast. A strategy with which it also intended to get rid of the label of niche formation —only obsessed with racism and Euroscepticism— and become a government party.

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The normalization strategy

“Through a demonization well built, it must be said, we have been separated from the political class, from a part of civil society, from a certain number of populations, officials or businessmen”, recognized Le Pen in 2003 on the rejection of the majority of parties and French citizens to an FN that with its xenophobia and ultra-nationalism threatens the constitutional and democratic principles of the Fifth Republic.

For this reason, the FN focused since 2011 on carrying out a strategy of ‘dédiabolisation’ (desmonization). That year, after being appointed as successor by her father, Marine Le Pen took the reins of the party, managed as a family clan with a vertical logic. Since then, abandoned antisemitism against the Jews and kicked out (or hid) those leaders and militants who smelled the most of sulfur, including his father, expelled in 2015. Unlike what Vox does in Spain, the RN is not directly opposed to the new consensus of the century XXI, such as equality between women and men or the fight against climate change, but rather tries to channel them through its ultra ideology.

This strategy, added to the succession of crises —the financial crisis of 2008, the wave of jihadist attacks in 2015 and covid-19 in 2020—, favored the electoral rise of lepenismo. She was third in the 2012 presidential elections (18%), second in 2017 (with 21% in the first round and 33% in the second) and now aspires to exceed 40% after having improved its results in the first round (23%).

“eternal loser”

This reputation of Le Pen as an “eternal loser” favored the political irruption of Éric Zemmour last autumn. Militants and leaders of his party, including his niece Marion Marechal, they abandoned it and joined the ranks of the debater. Faced with this difficult situation, he demonstrated his tactical ability. Instead of fragmenting his electoral base, he succeeded in making the rival candidacy —much louder and tougher in its xenophobic and Islamophobic postulates— serve to broaden it by giving it a more moderate image.

“Throughout the campaign he has maintained an economic discourse, focused on purchasing power (the main concern of the French), and leaving aside identity issues,” semiologist Élodie Mielczareck, a specialist in political communication, explains to EL PERIÓDICO. “He has adapted his oratory and vocabulary according to his audience, in a similar way to how Macron does it,” she adds about this chameleon-like style.

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“The polemicist’s candidacy made him an umbrella for all anger. But once Zemmour was no longer there – eliminated in the first round with 7% of the vote -, it was again Le Pen and everything that this surname entails”, recalls sociologist Guillermo Fernández Vázquez, professor at the Carlos III University and author of the book ‘What to do with the extreme right in Europe? The case of the National Front’.

In the last two weeks, French public opinion has set its sights on the most shady proposals on its agenda. For example, the prohibition of the Islamic headscarf in the street or its willingness to organize a controversial referendum —considered unconstitutional by numerous jurists— to drastically limit the arrival of immigrants and establish the “national priority”, which would prohibit the granting of social assistance to foreigners and would discriminate against them in the labor market. Despite all her communicative tricks, Le Pen is still linked to her ideological roots.

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