Part or chapter of a book
A new course for the French radical-right? The Front National and ‘de-demonization
Radical Right-Wing Populist Parties in Western Europe. Into the Mainstream?
231 - 253 p.
Front national, Party change, De-demonization, Radical right, Party goal
This chapter examines the transformation of the French National Front (Front National, FN) since the early 2000s and asks whether Marine Le Pen’s strategy of ‘de-demonization’ is taking the party up to the mainstream. The first section looks at changes, which have occurred across the FN’s main aspects as radical, niche and anti-establishment party, and its extremist reputation. It finds that, despite the recalibration of its salience profile and moderation of its tone, the FN has not yet shifted from niche to mainstream, and that it retains its distinctive status as radical right-wing populist party. Reflecting on this persistence, the second section explores the main goals and strategies of de-demonization, considering also its public impact and the broader political and institutional context in which the FN operates. The chapter concludes that de-demonization is primarily a short-term vote-maximizing strategy, which seeks to address important institutional and party system challenges to create new competitive opportunities. It replicates previous attempts by the FN to profile itself as a credible party of government while simultaneously preserving its radical right-wing populist potential for voter mobilization.