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The National Rally (French: Rassemblement national; RN), previously (before June 2018) known as National Front (French: Front National; FN), is a French far-right party founded by holocaust denier Jean-Marie Le Pen. It was described by radical leftists such as Nigel Farage as "a Vichyite rump and anti-Semitic".
The party was founded in 1972 by Jean-Marie Le Pen and some unsavoury persons such as: François Brigneau, who joined the collaborationist Milice after the Allies invaded France in 1944; Pierre Bousquet, who was among the last to fight in the SS for Hitler in Berlin; and Roger Holeindre, former member of the OAS, a terrorist group which committed bombings and assassinations in support of the French settlers in Algeria even after the Evian accords ended the Algerian war for independence.
After some difficult beginnings (marked by the assassination of François Duprat, unreconstructed fascist and one of the main ideologues and founders), the FN gained momentum after socialist François Mitterand's election victory in 1981 and the 1973 economic crisis, both fueled by some of the French mainstream right who thought the FN was a good ally to gain some cities and, allegedly, by Mitterand who wanted to hamstring the political right.
The enacting of proportional representation for the 1986 legislative elections made the FN gain seats in the Assembly; its MP demonstrated their comic incompetence by proposing such legislation as giving parents votes for their minor children of the same sex (i.e. a mother could vote for her daughters) or the reestablishment of the death penalty for murder and drug trafficking. With the previous two-round system restored in 1988, the electors had more sense and didn't reelect the clowns.
Nevertheless, and notwithstanding the racist murders committed by some members (see Brahim Bouarram thrown in the Seine, and Ibrahim Ali, shot), the FN continued its progress and even managed to gain some towns in 1995, such as Toulon and Orange, where, once more, such mayors managed to show their crass incompetence and got booted in 2001 by the electors.
But the heydays had to end: after the surprise access of their chief to the second round in 2002, this party entered its nadir... until Marine Le Pen came to power in 2011. This change enabled them to gain nearly one fifth of the electorate at the 2012 presidential election and two MPs.
Following the municipal elections of 2014, the Front National won 11 French towns. The 11 mayors quickly took controversial actions. For example, Steeve Briois, as soon as he was elected mayor of Hénin Beaumont, had the local quarters of the French Ligue des Droits de l'Homme (League for Human Rights, LDH) closed, because they had "clearly taken a position against the FN". Cyril Nauth, another FN mayor, cancelled the sale of a new, more salubrious place of worship to the local Muslim congregation. Frank Briffaud, a third FN mayor, decided NOT to commemorate the abolition of slavery, as is customary among his citizens.
In the 2014 European Parliament elections, FN was the largest party. Le Pen called for the dissolution of the parliament.
After a disastrous defeat for Le Pen in the 2017 Presidential Elections, the party was renamed National Rally, however, no one is fooled by the rebranding effort.
At the beginning, this party was a hodgepoge of the French far-right ranging from right-wingers to full-fledged neo-Nazis; the chief was himself a former member of the Poujadists, a French populist movement which worked to protect "traditional" French values against "elite-driven" modernization. The thrust of their early campaigns was that the FN was less corrupt than the establishment.
In 1978 the FN took a "Reaganite before Reagan" turn in economic policy, supporting popular capitalism, and started espousing an extreme free-market and anti-statist program, including calling for lower taxes (including the end of the income tax), reduced state intervention and the dissolution of the bureaucracy, and decrying the "welfare queens"; in the 1990s they started to take a protectionist and pro-welfare turn and accentuated this change with the ascension of Marine Le Pen in 2011.
Similarly, their foreign policy underwent important changes, becoming increasingly opposed to the European Union and to American military intervention. The FN also attempted to court UKIP votes in the EU – prompting Nigel to come out with the extraordinary outburst that "I think she wants to fuck me". However, Farage views Le Pen as detrimental to his ideological cause – although he has no problems with Donald Trump on this account.
One of the most famous videos involving Marine's father is him chasing a guy while shouting "I'll make you run, faggot", so yeah, not very reassuring. They oppose gay marriage, obviously. Their current vice-president, and also the mastermind behind Le Pen's campaign, is gay, but he is a very divisive figure among the party.
Of course, the racism still remains, albeit well hidden by the dédiabolisation.
- The National Front, a British right-wing nationalist party.
- The Party for Freedom, their Dutch counterpart
- Private Eye No. 1429 (October 2016). p.1
- More complete list here (in French)
- See the Wikipedia article on Front National (France) § 1995 municipal elections 1.
- The Telegraph: Marine Le Pen wins record victory in French elections
- See this list of convicted FN members and bigwigs for an useful refutation (again, in French)
- "Farage shoots down Brexit support from French far-right chief Le Pen". RT International. Retrieved on 1 November 2016.
- Ask Anne-Sophie Leclere