The Front National at the polls: transformational elections or the status quo reaffirmed?

James Shields*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalSpecial issue

Abstract

There is a widespread sense that the Front National (FN) came of age in 2014 as a challenger for power in France. The municipal and European elections appeared to herald a transformation in the party's development and prospects, demonstrating its capacity to compete as a major player at subnational and supranational levels following strong performances at the national level in the presidential and legislative elections of 2012. This article takes a critical view of that assessment. It argues that the FN in 2014 made significant progress but that the apparent surge of support for the party in these elections belies fundamental weaknesses in the depth and range of its electoral capacities and in its prospects for transforming itself into a party of government. These weaknesses were again evident in the departmental elections of 2015, confirming that the FN has not succeeded in ending bipolarisation and imposing a genuinely tripartite structure on French politics. Far from being the 'first party of France' and 'at the gates of power', the FN is still consigned primarily to a role of spoiler, with its progression stalled by institutional obstacles, electoral limitations and a political containment which it remains powerless to overcome.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)415-433
Number of pages19
JournalFrench Politics
Volume13
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2015

Bibliographical note

This is a post-peer-review, pre-copyedit version of an article published in French politics. The definitive publisher-authenticated version Shields, J. (2015). The Front National at the polls: transformational elections or the status quo reaffirmed?. French politics, 13(4), 415-433, is available online at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1057/fp.2015.15

Keywords

  • bipolarisation
  • departmental elections
  • European elections
  • French elections
  • Front National
  • municipal elections

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