The Le Pen Legacy

Marine Le Pen may have lost the French election, but millions of voters backed her. Paris-based journalist Christine Ockrent says Le Pen has brought the party her father started out of the political wilderness, and that populism is far from banished in France.



Marine Le Pen has not been elected president of France. She lost the election to the 39-year-old Emmanuel Macron who was a total unknown in French politics until a few years ago, who won with a considerable margin over the far right. Nevertheless, Marine Le Pen has managed to convince millions of French people to actually cast her name in the ballot box, and it is a remarkable achievement, which shows to what extent she has actually managed to de-diabolize the movement that her own father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, had actually founded 44 years ago. Jean-Marie Le Pen created a terrible shock in France in 2002, 15 years ago, when he managed to get to the second round of the presidential election, oust the then outgoing socialist prime minister, but he lost a crushing defeat to Jacques Chirac who got 82.2% of the vote. We did not watch this time what was then called “the Republican Front,” the upheaval against the far right, and it shows that Marine Le Pen has managed, again, to launder the kind of narrative that the French far right had been conducting for decades. She has done that, also building a personality cult around her, really taming her troops, starting with her own niece, Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, who is certainly the woman to watch in the coming years, and she has managed to actually impose the traditional themes of contemporary populism in the French national debate. We have heard that, of course, with Donald Trump, we have heard it with Brexit, and these themes – national identity, fear of immigration, fear of globalization, rejection of Europe, these themes are here to stay in the French national debate for quite some time.