Much to the chagrin of reasonable people across the political spectrum in France and around Europe, Marie Le Pen – daughter and political heiress to the infamous antisemite and Nazi apologist Jean-Marie Le Pen – came in second in the preliminary round of the nation’s presidential election.
She lost only to Emmanuel Macron, a political neophyte and hyper-centrist whose political ascent at the age of 39 has been startlingly fast.
Such a victory for Le Pen – who leads the far-right National Front – is jarring. The results, however, stemmed in part from a wide field of initial contenders, including two unpopular representatives of the historically largest center-right and center-left parties as well as the radical leftist Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who attracted immense support due to the declining popularity of the governing Socialist Party.
Barring some unforeseen catastrophe, Macron is expected to win Sunday’s vote. In 2002, Marie Le Pen’s father also advanced to a run-off stage against the center-right Jacques Chirac, who attracted support from all corners of the political spectrum as voters turned out en masse to oppose the vicious, reactionary nationalism representative by the Le Pen clan and the National Front.
But even if Macron wins on Sunday, the fine details of the result will have an enormous sway on what happens next in a Europe already reeling from Brexit and the ascendence of extreme right-wing, euroskeptic parties.
As French Ambassador to the United States Gérard Araud told Vox, the percentage that Le Pen receives will partially dictate the longterm viability of the far-right National Front: “If she gets 40 percent or more,” Aruad says, “[Le Pen] has shown that her strategy of de-demonization, controversial among hardliners within the party, works and she has a serious chance at winning in 2022.”
In other words, if Le Pen attracts a sizable portion of the electorate, the more boldfaced xenophobes and fascists in the party will smell blood, and continue course with the goal of seizing power in the future. If she falls flat, however, the party could backtrack to its fringe identity, diminishing the likelihood of it ever achieving a plurality of support sufficient enough to give it reins to the government.
For the sake of the social good, let us hope for this latter scenario.