Six Months on Front National’s New Mayors Seem to be Popular with their Voters

Six months after the hardline Front National won control of 11 French municipalities, RFI — France’s international broadcaster –set off to find out how they were delivering to the grassroots on their sometimes controversial election promises.

Marine Le Pen and Steeve Briois holding a press conference in Hénin-Beaumont. (Credit Wikipedia- Off2riorob )

Marine Le Pen and Steeve Briois holding a press conference in Hénin-Beaumont. (Credit Wikipedia- Off2riorob )

In the English language audio clip below (click the start button) RFI’s team Sarah Elzas and Pierre Firtion report on what the voters of Hénin Beaumont (north), Béziers and  Fréjus (south) make of their three mayors: Steeve Briois, Robert Ménard, and David Rachline.

(04:00 mins)

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In an earlier analysis  academics Jocelyn Evans (University of Leeds) and Gilles Ivaldi (University of Nice) – writing on their 500 Signatures blog noted:  “The FN has learned from hard lessons in 2001 and 2008 how to choose its battles, and how to secure its supply lines. The message we would take from this is a stabilisation of vote reminiscent of its position 20 years ago – a nationally successful party with a territorially focused powerbase. At this stage, notwithstanding a small number of symbolic wins, it does not represent an earthquake shift of the party into regions it has never previously found support – almost three-quarters of French towns are yet to see an FN list, let alone a victory. The reasonable expectation for the party was a performance which consolidated its position as a third party at all levels of French elections, not just the presidential race. To that extent, Marine Le Pen’s claims to head a party now beyond being written off as a marginal player are correct. But very few would have written the FN off in this way before the election. A straw-man surge is being used as much by the party for its own campaign purposes as by its opponents as a warning siren.”

The same authors note in a September 2014 analysis: “In addition to his other dubious titles, François Hollande has moved in the space of two years from the great hope against Sarkozy to the mainstream candidate unable to keep the FN out of the Elysée. At a time when the UMP seems to be steering unambiguously towards neoliberal economics, the national-protectionist agenda of economic redistribution endorsed by the FN since 2011 represents an even bigger challenge for a president in search of a new political path between old-fashioned French socialism and social-liberalism 2.0.
“Hopes that the FN would embarrass itself in local government after the municipal elections last year have been in vain. Political scandals involving FN mayors such as Fabien Engelmann in Hayange have received relatively little publicity, compared with the amount of press coverage of the FN’s vicissitudes in Toulon or Vitrolles in the late 1990s, which corroborates the increasing ‘normalization’ of the party in the eyes of a majority of the French. The spectacle of national government has proved far more watchable for most voters. All that is required of the FN over the next two years is maintain party discipline, avoid the corruption scandals which marred its previous forays into regional office, and repeat the more measured presidential campaign of 2012. Whilst victory in the presidentials is out of reach, if the mainstream Right show any strategic nous whatsoever, progression to the second round is probably guaranteed.”

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