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Future of France’s Front National: Interview with political scientist Jean-Yves Camus

Translated Tuesday 1 August 2017, by Tom Gil

France’s Front National is holding a "refoundation seminar" this weekend [1]. For the political scientist Jean-Yves Camus, it will have a "cathartic function", after disappointing electoral results, but “the party is in no danger”.

Photo : Iris

Jean-Yves Camus, politologue, spécialiste de l’extrême droite.

Huma: After defeat in the presidential and legislatives elections, what are the objectives of the party’s [senior] activists?

JEAN-YVES CAMUS After two electoral defeats, this seminar has a cathartic function, to allow the expression of discontent and the desire for evolution. It must be borne in mind that the party heavyweights aim to take power. They are currently in a very frustrating position: they are one of the three major political forces in the country but they have no effective power. This seminar will provide answers on key issues that will be put to the vote of activists at the January 2018 congress, such as France exiting the euro, the political line, or a change of party name. This last point, however, is, in my view, a marginal affair: it won’t be this that will change anything much.

Huma: While in all pre-electoral scenarios the FN were the number one adversary, the extreme right party saw its 10.6 million votes in the presidential election fall to less than 3 million in the legislatives. Does this mark an end to electoral progress?

JEAN-YVES CAMUS The FN has always had unequal electoral results, which do not put the party in danger. The French electorate were apathetic: some were disappointed with the defeat in the presidential election and knew that the legislative elections were decided in advance because of the non-proportional electoral system. Finally, the party also suffered from a strong general abstention.

Huma: The fracture between the FN of the north, more focussed on social issues, and FN of the south, more about identity politics, continues or is this seminar a start of a change?

JEAN-YVES CAMUS There is indeed a real conflict of line in this party with, on the one hand, the allies of Florian Philippot who think that if we do not leave the European Union and the euro, we will not regain our sovereignty, or who support the "neither right nor left" line. On the other hand, there are those who consider that the exit of the euro is causing fear and anxiety and that we must look to create an alliance on the Right. However, the figure of Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, leader of this line, has withdrawn from the field; this sensibility has no incarnation. In the middle, there is Marine Le Pen, who is trying to navigate. In conclusion, these divisions will still be present in the European elections of 2019.

Huma: Does the political landscape, torn up by the arrival of [Emmanual Macron’s] En Marche!, leave open the possibility of a recomposition binding the FN to elements of the Right so-called Republican Right?

JEAN-YVES CAMUS The problem faced by the FN and which explains its electoral failures is that it is alone. Its positions or its image make it insusceptible to being a coalition partner for the Right. The alliance with Dupont-Aignan did not work. For the FN to find allies, the right must first explode. For the time being, we do not see a wing of the Right that would be ready to position itself sufficiently to the right to form such an alliance. Laurent Wauquiez is part of this current that is very right-wing, but he did not respond to overtures from Marion Maréchal-Le Pen. In the legislative elections, all deputies of Les Républicains (LR) who were on a far-right line were eliminated and came away from the elections exhausted. For the time being, the FN is waiting to resolve its internal problems and, as long as the future of the Republicans party remains unclear, it is in its best interests to remain in a position of waiting.

[122-23 July

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