The Front National in France: party organization, elected representatives and grassroots
Workshop on “Comparative Survey of Territorial Party Representation and Organization”
2012-09-07 / 2012-09-08
Front national, Party organization, Leadership, Populism
Since the mid-1980s, the electoral consolidation of the French Front national (FN) has been accompanied by the progressive building of an effective nationwide organization and by the development of the party’s local base of power. This paper seeks to disaggregate the FN’s organization into several dimensions and to look at how the party has adapted to changing political circumstances over time. It considers aspects of party institutionalization and organization, as well as the FN’s governmental status, centralization of power and coherence. The focus is primarily on the agenda of modernization pushed by Marine Le Pen since her accession in 2011. The analysis suggests generational turnover among party elites and candidates, with the rise of a younger cohort of national leaders. The paper also finds an embryonic process of professionalization amongst the party’s grassroots, together with the reinvigoration of its pool of local representatives, which has recently allowed the party to expand its local power base. Despite significant changes, however, there is no evidence of a more substantial move towards party ‘normalization’, neither ideologically nor organizationally. The analysis points to the continuation of Le Pen’s familial model of autocratic leadership and the persistence of a highly centralized hierarchical party organization. The paper concludes that the FN has not broken away from the traditional populist party. Reflecting on recent changes in the internal balance of power, the analysis suggests instead that the FN has undergone a process of ‘Marinization’ whereby Marine Le Pen has successfully replaced her father as the new iconic leader of the French radical right.