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What would a victory for Le Pen's far-right party mean for France?

Genevieve Mansfield
Genevieve Mansfield - [email protected]
What would a victory for Le Pen's far-right party mean for France?
French far-right Rassemblement National (RN) party leader Marine Le Pen (L) gives a speech as party President Jordan Bardella listens at the Pavillon Chesnaie du Roy in Paris, on June 9, 2024. (Photo by JULIEN DE ROSA / AFP)

France's far-right party, the Rassemblement National, won over a third of the vote during the European elections and are now challenging the government to take control of the French parliament in the legislative elections. So what are their policies and how would a victory affect life in France?

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After the far-right party Rassemblement National won 31.47 percent of the vote in the European elections on Sunday - over double that of the president's party (who won 14.5 percent) - Emmanuel Macron dissolved parliament and called for snap elections.

The voting will take place on June 30th and July 7th, and Macron's camp have made it clear that the vote is intended as a referendum on the far-right; asking voters whether they really want them in charge.

Presidential and legislative elections are separate in France so whatever the outcome of these election, Macron remains in post as the president, but if the far-right do well enough to get an overall majority in parliament, they could enter a 'cohabitation' with a far-right prime minister - most likely party leader Jordan Bardella.

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With the caveat that there are limits to the power of a French prime minister - what would a far-right PM mean for France? We take a look at the party's most recent manifestos to determine their election priorities.

Who are Rassemblement National?

The party was founded in 1972 by ex paratrooper Jean-Marie Le Pen and spent its early years as an extremist fringe group before its first big electoral success in 2002 when Le Pen reached the second round of the presidential election. His success caused huge shock in France and he was comprehensively defeated in round two of voting by incumbent president Jacques Chirac.

Le Pen's daughter Marine took over the party leadership in 2012 and has been working to soften the image of the party (although not necessarily its policies) including changing its name front Front National to Rassemblement National (national rally).

The party has been making steady electoral gains both on a domestic and European level, with Marine Le Pen reaching the second round of the presidential elections in both 2017 and 2022.

The party currently has 89 deputés in the Assemblée national - in order to gain an absolute majority in parliament they would need to either increase that number to 289 or enter into coalition with another party.

While Le Pen remains an MP and says that she intends to stand for president again in 2027, she has handed over the day-to-day running of the party to the 28-year-old Bardella.

So what are the party's policies?

Most recently, the party has produced two manifestos; one for the presidential and legislative elections in 2022 and one for the European elections earlier this month.

The European manifesto unsurprisingly focused largely on EU policy, while the 2022 programme looked at domestic issues. Although Le Pen's 2022 presidential campaign had a heavy emphasis on the cost of living and aid for struggling families, the party's manifesto - mostly written before the full-scale invasion of Ukraine - focused largely on immigration, Islam, and law and order.

As for business and economics - sector leaders have decried the RN's vagueness when it comes to economic policy.

In contrast to Macron's time in office that has focused on making life easier for businesses and high-profile courting of foreign investment, "we know nothing" about the RN's plans, the head of one major European industrial firm's French subsidiary told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Local business group U2P said they would "respect the people's choice, but the RN has to say more precisely what it proposes on questions with a tax, social and economic effect on small firms," its chief Michel Picon told AFP.

At the last presidential election in 2022, the outfit had warned that RN chief Marine Le Pen's manifesto promises "would have bad consequences for business," he recalled.

READ MORE: French bosses fear far right's vague economic plans

Here is an overview of RN policies, particularly focusing on those which affect foreigners living in France, or those planning to move here some day.

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Domestic policy

If she had won the presidency, Le Pen's immigration policy would have involved rewriting all of France’s immigration laws to, as it said in her election manifesto, “preserve French people from migratory submersion”.

This would involve a major overhaul of the system for visas and residency cards (more detail below) required by non-EU citizens to spend prolonged periods of time in France.

Le Pen also argued in her manifesto that Islamist groups seek, “to erect in our country a counter-model of society based on a totalitarian a totalitarian ideology”. It went on: “I have tabled a bill aimed at combating Islamist ideologies, which are incompatible with our values, our history and our culture, and which stem from a totalitarian vision of social life.” 

Didier Leschi, head of the French Office for Immigration and Integration, is on the record as saying that Le Pen’s bill was worded in such a manner that it should be considered “a totalitarian text”.

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Le Pen’s manifesto was as big on law and order as it was on immigration, subjects that she and her party have sought to link.

In it, she said she wanted to increase the number of police officers, and arm municipal police in all towns with more than 10,000 inhabitants. She intended to increase prison places, impose minimum sentencing for a range of crimes, preventing judges from using their judgement, and introduce ‘actual life sentences’, and abolish automatic reductions in sentencing.

READ MORE: Explained: How far-right is France's Marine Le Pen?

When it comes to environmental issues, AFP reported that Le Pen is a "committed opponent of wind energy", vowing a "moratorium on new construction and the gradual dismantling of existing parks."

These plans are incompatible with France's current climate commitments.

She also promised a fleet of 20 new nuclear reactors when running for the presidency in 2022, but experts have said that her goal timeline of 2031 would be unrealistic as it takes between 10-15 years to build up nuclear facilities.

What would this mean for foreigners in France?

As immigration is a large priority for the RN, there is little doubt that this topic would come up again (despite the country having just passed a sweeping immigration law in January).

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In 2022, Le Pen's platform included ending all non-economic immigration - so that people could only move to France to work (rather than to retire or to join a French spouse); reserving housing or social benefits for French citizens and taking away visas/residency cards of all foreigners who have been out of work for one year in France.

She also said that she would allow French citizenship only to people who have “earned it and assimilated” – although she did not specify how this would be different to the current process, which already requires a French test and an interview on French culture for those applying through residency or marriage.

We can also get an idea of the recent domestic immigration priorities of the right and far right by looking at their proposed amendments to Macron's immigration bill, many of which were rejected by the country's Conseil constitutionnel.

These included limits on benefits for foreigners, a limitation on the right to French citizenship for children born in France to foreign parents and stricter limits on family reunification visas.

And what about within the EU?

Le Pen has previously been a supporter of 'Frexit' (France leaving the EU). Since Brexit happened in the UK she has changed her stance and now advocates staying in the EU but refusing to abide by some of Bloc's policies - political analysts say this amount to 'Frexit by stealth'.

Her party remains hostile to many EU rules and values and wants to introduce protectionist and 'France first' policies, many of which would be contrary to EU principles such as freedom of movement for both goods and people.

The party's most recent European election manifesto calls for a stratégie tricolore with three axes; Europe that protects, Europe that produces and Europe that respects (full version found here).

Immigration - the RN affirmed its opposition to 'mass immigration' and 'unfair competition', seeking to increase border controls and place conditions on development aid to non-EU countries based on their cooperation in matters related to immigration.

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The programme calls for an EU referendum to "reaffirm the primacy of the French Constitution over the decisions of European judges on immigration matters".

The RN wants to restrict free movement within the Schengen area to nationals of member countries only. In order to do so, they would institute a 'double border' - although details on this were vague their proposal seemed to be for extra controls at the French border, ending free travel within the Schengen zone.

Economics and energy - The programme also supports pulling the EU out of free trade agreements and "putting a moratorium on the negotiation of new free trade agreements (by the EU)".

The RN supports taking France out of the European energy market (which it claims will bring lower bills for French consumers) and continuing the use of nuclear power. 

Environment - The RN wants to change the terms of the carbon tax (adopted in May 2023) so it would only apply to finished and semi-finished products, rather than raw materials.

The party opposes the development of low-emission traffic zones in towns and cities and would also seek to repeal the ban on selling combustion-engine vehicles (due come into effect in 2035).

The RN opposes the 'Green Pact', the EU's environmental roadmap for achieving climate neutrality by 2050 for being an example of "punitive ecology".

Defence - The RN supports favouring arms orders from European rather than American companies. The programme also states that "Europe must allow military cooperation between States, freely granted, particularly in matters of defence and force deployment."

Le Pen has been strongly critical of French and EU support for Ukraine since Russia's full-scale invasion in 2022.

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Comments (2)

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Emerald 2024/06/12 01:25
"its first big electoral success in 2022 when Le Pen reached the second round of the presidential election. His" Seems like a typo there.
  • Emma Pearson 2024/06/12 08:37
    Merci! 2002, of course
christophermcardle. 2024/06/11 18:03
Sounds fantastic. Bring it on

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