Overview

Front National


Quick Reference

A French neo‐Fascist party, founded in 1972 by Jean‐Marie Le Pen. It has advocated under the banner of ‘France for the French’ the deportation of immigrants, whom it blames for rising crime, unemployment, and welfare costs. Le Pen has also been reported as making very strong anti‐Semitic statements. Hence, while his opposition to immigration is anti‐Arabic, he has supported the Arab countries against Israel. Such contradictions have not harmed the party's prospects. It broke through in the 1984 European elections, when the party took about 11 per cent of the popular vote. In the elections during the following decade, it polled around 10 per cent, though in the French presidential elections of 1995, Le Pen gained almost 19 per cent of the votes. In these last elections, the party was able for the first time to gather substantial support outside the industrial areas of the north and areas with a large immigrant population in the south, for example in prosperous Alsace. In 1998, a split emerged between Le Pen and a group of ambitious nationalists led by Bruno Megret, who tried to assert the leadership of the movement. Megret was unsuccessful, and in 1999 founded his own nationalist party, the National Republican Movement (MNR, Mouvement National Republicain). Despite these divisions, Le Pen's charisma and his ability to address popular dissatisfaction with the governmental elite ensured an unprecedented success at the 2002 presidential elections, when he beat the Prime Minister, Jospin, into third place. As a result of the complex French electoral system, however, the Front National did not get a single deputy elected into the National Assembly at the subsequent parliamentary elections of 2002. Le Pen stood again in the 2007 presidential elections, receiving much help from his daughter, Marie, who acted as the party's vice‐president.

Subjects: contemporary history (post 1945).


Reference entries