July 15. 2024. 7:54

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In Europe as in France, Le Pen’s party still trapped behind ‘cordon sanitaire’

After the European and French parliamentary elections in the past month, the RN can pride itself on having considerably increased the number of its representatives, both in Strasbourg and in Paris.

The far-right party, led by Marine Le Pen and her protegé, Bardella, has 30 members in the European Parliament compared to 23 in the previous term and, together with allies, 143 deputies in the National Assembly compared to 89 in 2022.

However, the election evening of 7 July dashed their hopes of coming to power that had been building since President Emmanuel Macron dissolved parliament on 9 June. The party won 10 million votes but was beaten back by the formation of an effective ‘Republican Front’, revealing that the far right still frightens the majority of French people.

“There were a few casting errors, which I believe gave our movement a bad image, an image that did not correspond to my values, my convictions, my political line,” Bardella admitted, while some party members are now openly calling for “an examination of conscience” to see what went wrong.

One scandal followed another in the final days of the campaign, with more than a hundred representatives of the RN called out for their racist, homophobic, anti-Semitic, conspiracy and anti-IVG comments, or for their links with radical groups.

This failure is likely to shake things up internally as Bardella embarks on a general overhaul of the movement.

In another setback, Gilles Pennelle, who was elected as an MEP and tasked with supervising the candidates, resigned on Monday (8 July) from his post as director general of the party, officially so as not to combine functions.

Friends of Viktor Orbán

Keen to maintain a smooth public image, the RN was also careful not to publicise the negotiations with Viktor Orbán to form the Patriots for Europe group in the European Parliament. The official reason was not to “muddy” the campaign for the French elections, as Jean-Paul Garraud, chairman of the RN delegation in Strasbourg, explained to Euractiv.

The Hungarian prime minister is a supporter of Vladimir Putin’s regime and has no hesitation in tightening the national laws against abortion and the LGBTQIA+ community, while Bardella has repeatedly said he is in favour of sending arms to Ukraine and welcomed the inclusion of the right to abortion in the French Constitution.

The positions of some Patriots for Europe members such as the Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) do not exactly reflect the “normalisation” sought by the RN leaders, a normalisation that Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni (Fratelli d’Italia, European Conservatives and Reformists) has succeeded in achieving.

A few weeks before the European elections, on 23 May, the RN initiated the procedure to exclude their former allies, the Alternative for Germany (AfD), from the Identity and Democracy (ID) group, after it became embroiled in a series of scandals.

However, as the main political groups started carving out jobs in the European Parliament, it became clear that no MEP from the Patriots for Europe group would get to chair a parliamentary committee.

“There is a consensus on this issue,” Renew MEP Pascal Canfin told Euractiv. “It is not possible to have Europe managed by those who want to destroy it”.

With that, the Rassemblement national seems to have failed in both of their aims – seizing power in France and transforming itself at the European level.

Read more with Euractiv

Spain’s Court of Auditors fines far-right VOX for irregular donations

Spain’s Court of Auditors fines far-right VOX for irregular donations

Spain’s Court of Auditors imposed on Tuesday (9 July) two sanctions on the far-right VOX party, the third force in the Spanish parliament, for what it said were two serious violations of Spanish law on party financing.