Brief history of the National Front party

National Front, Front National or FN, is the nationalist right-wing political party in France and its political roots date back to late 19th century pro-monarchy group. Unlike Emmanuelle Macron’s party En Marche!, FN has a much longer history of successes and failures.

Jean-Marie Le Pen, the current presidential candidate Marine Le Pen’s father, founded FN in October 1972 under the name National Front for French Unity, Front national pour l’unite francaise.

The party has its roots going back to the end of the 1800’s with the Action Francaise, a pro-monarchy group that still exists today.

1950’s and 1960’s

During the Algerian War, many politicians such as Jean-Marie were directly involved in the war and disagreed with the French President Charles de Gaulle’s decision to not hold onto French Algeria.

Jean-Marie tried to bring the right-wing groups together in the 1965 presidential election, but failed. During this time the French far-right was made up of small groups such as Occident, Groupe Union Defense (GUD) and Order Nouveau (ON).


1970’s

After competing in local elections, Jean-Marie launched the National Front party. In expanded on ON principles and unites various French far-right groups such as the Party of French Unity, Justice and Liberty movement as well as Algerian war veterans and pro-monarchy groups.

Jean-Marie was chosen to be the first president of the party. Since then the party struggled to gain momentum. They continuously failed to unite the entire right and had not received more than 0.8% of the vote in any election.

 

In the 1974 presidential election Jean-Marie’s alleged involvement of torture during the Algerian War was published by the Revolutionary Communist League and it damaged the party’s image to right-wing voters causing them to rally behind other candidates.  

1980’s

In the 1980’s the party was more successful due to Jean-Marie softening the FN’s policies. Furthermore, other right-wing and centre-right parties aligned themselves with FN giving them more popularity in local and by-elections.

By July 1984 17% of people who responded to opinion polls had a positive opinion of FN.  The 1986 legislative elections were also successful for FN. The party secured 35 seats in the National Assembly. The 1988 presidential election Jean-Marie won an unprecedented 14.4% of the vote.

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Jean-Marie Le Pen in 1985

1990’s

This success did not last very long. In 1999 the party split after Jean-Marie named his wife Jany instead of Megret to succeed him in the upcoming European election. Megret and his followers left and found the National Republican Movement (MNR).  The effects of the split were made clear after FN polled at less than 6%.

2002 to present day

During the 2002 presidential election Jean-Marie shocked the country when he unexpectedly beat Lionel Jospin to be in the runoff against incumbent President Jacques Chirac. It was the first presidential run-off since 1969 where neither candidate was from a left-wing party.

However, nationwide anti-Le Pen protests coupled with President Chirac refusing to do a televised debate with Jean-Marie resulted in a landslide win for President Chirac. He won more than 82% of the vote and according to polls 71% of that was just to prevent Jean-Marie from winning.

 In 2008 Jean-Marie announced he would step down as president of FN. His daughter Marine won an overwhelming majority to succeed him in 2011.

 

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Jean-Marie Le Pen irrupting on stage during Marine’s speech on 1st May 2015 © BFM

 

However, in 2015 Jean-Marie was formally expelled from the party by his daughter for inflammatory remarks about Nazi gas chambers being a mere “detail” of history.  He was also fined €30,000.

On Sunday 23rd of April 2017, Marine Le Pen broke her own record of number of votes in favour of Front National in an election. With 7.29 millions of votes, she overpassed her score of 6.8 millions people in the 2015 regional elections.

 

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