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In light of the transformation of the Front National (FN) to a major player in French politics, this book examines how the unprecedented boost in positive opinions towards the FN as well as its increasing membership and electoral success have been possible. Using a supply and demand framework and a mixed methods approach, the author investigates the development of the FN and compares the “new” FN under Marine Le Pen with the “old” FN under Jean-Marie Le Pen across 4 dimensions: (1) the party’s ideology, (2) the leadership styles of the two leaders including the composition of the party elites and the leaders’/ parties’ relationship with the media, (3) the party members and (4) the party voters. It appeals to scholars interested in the study of radical right-wing movements and parties as well as to anybody interested in French politics.


Inhaltsverzeichnis

Frontmatter

Chapter 1. Introduction

The introduction discusses the FN’s recent gains in vote shares, membership numbers, and positive public opinions, as well as introduces the themes and arguments of the book

Daniel Stockemer

Chapter 2. The History of the Front National

This chapter describes the historical development of the FN, from its modest first steps in politics to becoming a main French party and one of the most successful radical right-wing parties in Europe.

Daniel Stockemer

Chapter 3. The FN’s Ideology Under Jean-Marie Le Pen and Marine Le Pen

Through mainly qualitative textual analysis of FN party documents before and after 2011, this chapter highlights that there is very little change in the FN ideology and program between Le Pen father and Le Pen daughter. The FN was and continues to be the prototypical radical right-wing party. It has always and still advances a simplistic frame that pushes anti-immigrant, anti-establishment and nationalist sentiments. However, there has been change in the form and rhetoric, which the FN elites use to communicate their message and advance their positions. Contrary, to the old FN, the new FN at the leadership level uses an acceptable language, condemns anti-Semite statements and situates its statements within a republican discourse.

Daniel Stockemer

Chapter 4. The FN’s Leadership and Elites Under Jean-Marie Le Pen and Marine Le Pen

This chapter is dedicated to the two leaders Jean Marie Le Pen and Marine Le Pen, their leadership styles, the party elites that surround them and the two leaders’ media relations. An in-depth analysis of the secondary literature and some primary sources highlights that there is continuity in the way the two leaders have run the FN. Both leaders are charismatic, they have created a personality cult around their name, they have governed the FN with an iron fist, and they have had a strong record in nominating family members to important inner-party offices. Yet, Le Pen father and Le Pen daughter differ in their relationship with the media. Jean Marie Le Pen has always had a strenuous relationship with the media. Yet, he nurtured this negative media broadcasting through provocations and anti-Jewish statements. In contrast, Marine Le Pen has normalized her relationship with the media. Seen as a young and dynamic woman, she is even a media favorite, who is regularly invited to talk shows, political shows and news broadcasts.

Daniel Stockemer

Chapter 5. The FN Membership Under Jean-Marie Le Pen and Marine Le Pen

Based on an in-depth analysis of semi-structured interviews with nearly four dozens FN members in 2013, this chapter, highlights that the FN is no longer a party of old traditional right-wing men, members with a decidedly extreme right-wing background and family socialisation, or the losers of modernization, low educated individuals, who cannot cope with the problems of modernization any more. To the contrary, the FN under Marine Le Pen could mobilize and recruit in its ranks and files individuals of all ages, social classes and backgrounds. Marine Le Pen finds followers among workers, the educated, disgruntled members of the moderate right, individuals, who have had negative experiences with immigrants, and members of the French society, who have become more conservative or right-wing over their lives. All these groups form a community in the FN, a community that is rather close. However, this community is still characterized by a sizable number of activists, who, being discriminated against in society, prefer to keep their engagement secret and who continue to face some societal discrimination. This latter point highlights that despite all of Marine Le Pen’s efforts to make the FN a party like others, the party is still not 100 % there, yet.

Daniel Stockemer

Chapter 6. The FN Voters Under Jean-Marie Le Pen and Marine Le Pen

Using survey data on the FN vote in 2007 and 2012, This chapter highlights that the party’s vote base has not broadened as much as the FN’s membership after Marine Le Pen has taken over the party. Rather, the new FN could tap more successfully into its core basin, the working and lower middle classes; the gross of the FN vote stems from individuals with low education, workers and individuals who are dissatisfied with how democracy works in France. Beyond these groups, the FN under Marine Le Pen could make some gains among younger voters, and could strengthen its vote base in the countryside. Nevertheless, these limited gains illustrate that the FN has not become the catch all party in terms of electoral support it wishes to be.

Daniel Stockemer

Chapter 7. Conclusion

Quo vadis FN, this is the question answered in the conclusion. For sure, the FN’s gains are impressive, the party has broadened its membership, has attracted more votes than ever, and has never been as popular among the French population. Nevertheless, this does not mean that the FN is mainstream; a majority of the population is and remains opposed to the FN’s policy positions, the party continues to lack local implementation and the voters have not really diversified beyond their core. Therefore, it is hardly conceivable that an organization that is more run like a family business than a modern party will gain access to the highest office in France in the twenty first century.

Daniel Stockemer

Backmatter

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