Whisper it: Marine Le Pen could well be the next French president. All the far-right leader has to do is go unnoticed over the next few years, keep her hands clean while President Emmanuel Macron pushes forward with his unpopular reforms, and continue to rebrand herself and his party, all the way to the Elysée.
Previously kept at bay by the “Republican Front” – an informal pact that saw French center-left and right voters band together to keep those on the margins out of power – Le Pen’s National Rally party is raking in ever more votes each time. election. In a recent poll, 42 percent of respondents said they had already voted for a National Rally list or candidate, up from 30 percent in 2017. And, in ominous news for the European Union, the latest data of a French poll for the elections to the European Parliament place his party in first place, well before the Macron Renaissance. While the National Rally no longer wants Frexit, the big fear in Brussels is that Le Pen will undermine the bloc’s support for Ukraine, given its long-standing ties to Russia. Rumor has it that French banks are now carrying out stress tests not only to detect a new financial crisis, but also for a President Le Pen.
So how did Le Pen manage to redefine herself as a credible occupant of a presidential palace? She certainly benefited from Macron’s waning popularity: as the president faced six months of protests, strikes, and general chaos, Le Pen sat in the National Assembly and quietly worked to bolster his credibility, including by snatching key positions from him in the chamber. Le Pen has also benefited from the rise on her right flank of Éric Zemmour, the far-right incendiary who has been repeatedly convicted of inciting hatred, and who makes Le Pen seem lenient by comparison. Le Pen, meanwhile, is reaching out to France’s Jewish community and continuing to burnish her popular image as a “cat mother” – she now has a “diploma in cat breeding.” Yes really.
View the full POLITICO 28: Class of 2024 and read the editors’ letter for an explanation of the thinking behind the rankings.