Over the last fifteen years the Front National in France has risen from being an
obscure and insignificant actor to one of the more visible and most discussed parties in
French politics. The Front, led by Jean-Marie Le Pen, has managed to attract a sizable
proportion of the electorate in nearly every election at every level of government over this
time period. The support the FN has garnered can be attributed to the populist themes it
addresses in its policy platform - law and order, immigration and unemployment. This
essay examines the rapid ascent of Le Pen and his party, and the circumstances that made
the rise feasible. It also analyses the FN's policies and their subsequent effects on French
politics and society. Finally, the Front National's electorate and future in French politics
The Rise of Le Pen and the FN
Jean-Marie Le Pen, who lost his left eye in a political brawl,1 began his political career
long before the conception of the FN.
As a lieutenant to Pierre Poujade, the leader of the
Poujadist movement,2 Le Pen became a member of the National Assembly from 1956 to
1958. During this time he acquired many of the values and ideals on which he later used
to formulate the Front's platform. After his stint in the National Assembly, Le Pen
traveled to then colonized Algeria and saw active duty as a paratrooper officer. The years
leading up to the naming of Le Pen as leader of the FN were comparatively calm to the
years he would spend with the Front.
The Front National's creation in 1972 with Le Pen at the helm, might be described
as anything but auspicious. During the first decade of its existence, it remained at best a
fringe party with a radical and...