Marine Le Pen’s recent detoxification of the Front National has been at the expense of the party’s intellectual traditions

One of the most interesting aspects of French presidential election campaigns since 1974 has been the presence of a Front National (FN) candidate – although in 1981, Jean-Marie Le Pen couldn’t quite get enough signatures to stand. In 2002, he even went through to the run-off against Jacques Chirac; and for a while in 2011, polls suggested that his daughter and successor, Marine Le Pen might make it through in 2012. But whatever its electoral fortunes, the FN has exercised huge influence on the French political scene. And its presence tells us much about the nature of the far right, and about French institutions and history; and presidential elections aside, the FN has helped define the French political landscape, has shaped the dynamics of the Fifth Republic, and been shaped by it.

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