The French extreme right wants to select Bardella, 27, as Le Pen’s successor

The French extreme right wants to select Bardella, 27, as Le Pen’s successor


France’s far-right National Rally Party is set to elect a successor to its long-time leader Marine Le Pen on Saturday, with 27-year-old Jordan Bardella the overwhelming favorite to oversee the task of building on strong parliamentary gains.

Le Pen, who failed to unseat Emmanuel Macron in last spring’s presidential election, has nonetheless made her party a force to be reckoned with since taking over from her father Jean-Marie Le Pen 11 years ago.

Efforts to shed their legacy of virulent anti-Semitic and extremist views helped RN candidates win 89 seats in the National Assembly following Macron’s re-election, stripping his center party of an outright majority.

By stepping down as party leader, Le Pen will focus on leading the RN group in Parliament, where it will have a strong platform for a possible fourth presidential bid in 2027.

Party sources told AFP the only uncertainty was the “magnitude of Bardella’s victory” over his rival Louis Aliot, a party veteran and former Le Pen partner.

Raised by his Italian-born mother, Bardella promotes a sleek image rarely seen out of a suit and impressed with sharp performances in election debates this year.

But shadows from the past remain for the party. This week Le Pen and Bardella, already acting as interim leaders, had to defend one of their MPs who was suspended over allegations of a racist outburst against a colleague.

Gregoire de Fournas called out “back to Africa” ??to a black lawmaker who questioned the government’s response to migrants rescued in the Mediterranean.

He later said he was referring to the boat, not his colleague, but Home Secretary Gerald Darmanin said on Friday Bardella had shown his complicity in “everyday racism”.

– Extremist nostalgia? –

There are also questions about the value of the RN presidency for Bardella, as Le Pen officially leads his cohort in Parliament and is widely expected to become his presidential nominee in 2027.

The party position can also be a stepping stone for the MLP’s final farewell to the political arena.

Bardella has also been criticized in recent weeks by Aliot, who, as mayor of Perpignan, is the only RN politician to govern a city of more than 100,000 people.

Aliot has accused him of promoting white supremacist groups, which should be unacceptable for a party trying to prove it can unite and rule the country.

Bardella, in August 2021, also believed in the so-called “Great Replacement” conspiracy theory of a covert “Islamization” of Europe being orchestrated by its elites – something Le Pen has balked at.

In an open letter last month, Aliot criticized “extreme nostalgia” and “the excesses of the Front National of a bygone era,” a reference to the party’s original name.

Aliot later said he was targeting supporters of Eric Zemmour, the far-right pundit who alienated many RN voters with his more extremist positions in this spring’s presidential campaign.

Bardella accused him of “bitterness and malice” and stressed that his goal was to win more supporters from the traditional parties right and left.

The RN has continued to ruffle the French political establishment, voting alongside far-left party France Unbowed on no-confidence motions tabled against the government amid fierce budget debates.

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