Successful Mobilization against the EU? The Front National Populist Politics of Euroscepticism in France
The Populist Politics of Euroscepticism amidst Critical Junctures
2016-09-07 / 2016-09-10
Pragues, CZECH REPUBLIC
Front national, Populism, Euroscepticism, European integration, Economic and refugee crisis
The Front National (FN) is a significant vehicle of populist Euroscepticism in the French party system. Opposition to the EU has become central to the party’s programmatic mix of anti-establishment populism, ethno-nationalism and economically leftist protectionist policies, reinforcing the FN’s role as principal anti-EU force in French politics. Amid growing voter discontent with the ruling parties and the EU, the FN has reached new electoral heights in the 2014 European elections, channelling most of the Eurosceptic vote. Adopting a supply-side and case study approach, this paper looks at the contours and shifts in FN populist politics of Euroscepticism in the context of the recent EU financial and migration crises. Changes in the Eurosceptic appeal fashioned by the FN are assessed from a variety of party communication sources to disaggregate the oppositional elements that characterize the ‘hard’ anti-EU stance of the party. Looking more specifically at the influence of the European economic and refugee crises, the analysis suggests that the novel issues provided by those crises have resonated strongly with the party’s agenda and that they have been successfully absorbed by the FN, allowing the party to capitalize on growing anti-EU and anti-establishment sentiment in recent elections. Finally, the paper claims that the FN has achieved a hegemonic Eurosceptic position since 2014 and that this has produced significant changes in the dynamics of party competition over the EU, resulting primarily into the mainstreaming of FN Euroscepticism in the party system.