Could Le Pen’s Defeat Signal The End of European Right?

Day after the French Presidential election run-off, we analyze its impact on France and European politics

After Emmanuel Macron won the French election run-off by a landslide on Sunday, the mainstream media jumped to seize the moment and proclaim that the ‘far-right’ across Europe has officially been stopped.

EU leaders, French establishment, and almost all mainstream media in Europe jubilantly proclaimed Macron’s victory to be a major triumph against the so-called ‘far-right’. The election result itself gives them a powerful argument – the French electorate voted to reject Marine Le Pen, as she won only 34 percent of the vote.

According to the results from French Interior Ministry Macron received 20,7 million votes, Le Pen only 10,6.

Naturally, the media were quick to call the Sunday’s French vote a slap in the face for European ‘populists’. This year’s French election was just one in a series of important political events in Europe. After the shock of Brexit and Donald Trump’s triumph in the U.S. the EU and all the local elites that are directly dependent on Brussels were in a desperate need to stop the trend.

The first major test was the Presidential election in Austria. After Norbert Hofer, leader of the Euro-skeptic Freedom Party was defeated by centrist liberal Alexander Van der Bellen, the EU elites could breathe a sigh of relief.

Then came the Dutch legislative election. Despite fears that Geert Wilders’ Party for Freedom might end up winning the election, the party of the incumbent Prime Minister Mark Rutte collected most votes. From PVV standpoint, the election was a disappointment.

Emboldened by the outcomes of elections in Austria and the Netherlands, the Europhiles turned to France – the largest and most important electoral battlefield in Europe. In many ways, Marine Le Pen’s Front National embodied everything that Brussels and globalists deeply despise. She proposed to limit immigration, bring back border controls, call for a referendum on France’s EU membership and leave the Euro.

In the eyes of Brussels, Le Pen’s program and her policies are a supreme heresy. In France itself, Le Pen had to battle with the still largely negative opinion of FN and Le Pen family. In past years she invested a lot of effort to re-brand the party image, distance herself from her father’s harsh, combative rhetoric and represent FN as an anti-globalist, sovereignist, patriotic party.

It could not be said that Le Pen failed. In 2015 regional elections, FN became the most popular political party in France. Two years later, Le Pen qualified for the second round of Presidential election and won 34 percent of the vote.

However, she and her supporters still faced a hostile political establishment, supported by the mainstream media and French cultural and intellectual elites. FN was still being commonly described with the labels such as ‘far-right’, ‘extreme right’, ‘extremist’, and even ‘racist’ and ‘fascist’.

When Le Pen entered the election run-off, political establishment reached for the tried-and-tested strategy of isolating FN and representing it as a ‘danger’ for France. For the most part, people who voted for Macron did so only to prevent the danger of President Marine. Once again, fear of Le Pen was a major factor behind Macron’s election victory.

Conclusions

While the election result is disappointing for Le Pen, she still reached the run-off and won 34 percent of the vote. Her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen also reached the run-off in 2002, but suffered a crushing defeat to Jacques Chirac, winning only 17 percent of the vote. Back then, FN was still perceived as a neo-fascist party.

Today, the new FN is slowly becoming an acceptable option for French voters, and arguably the only real opposition in the country. Important legislative election in June will likely result in another important success for Le Pen. FN currently has only 2 MP’s in the assembly, but the polls indicate that the party could win around 20 seats in June legislative election.

The new President Emmanuel Macron is lacking political experience, and he could face significant obstacles in assembling his own coalition. Large parts of the French electorate mistrust him and his policies. Perhaps a good indication of this fact is that Macron was elected President in the election with biggest abstention rate since 1969.

Marine Le Pen’s defeat is by no means the end of the road for anti-EU forces across the continent. If anything, her very presence in the election run-off is a clear evidence that sovereignism and anti-globalism now represent a significant political force in Europe.

Photo: Quartz