Flipping France: Will Populism Finally Triumph In France’s Election?

✪ The result of the first round of the presidential election has confronted France with the prospect of power in the hands of Marine Le Pen, the far-right populist leader. She is only two to four points behind President Emmanuel Macron in the lead-up to the second round, a very different scenario from five years ago, when Macron, then an aspiring young leader, defeated Mrs. Le Pen handily...

This week, we await the possibility of a close and somewhat surprising, unpredicted victory of Marine Le Pen to become president of France, the occupant of the Elysée Palace. 

The election results show how close a call it is and how much the average Frenchman despises the fallen star of Emmanuel Macron. Le Pen’s win would flip France and flip off the worldwide globalist crowd.

In the words of one of my best friends and allies in France—Le Pen “can make a huge difference.” Ordinarily, the French political system is complicated and indecisive. Any country with four or more major political blocks is typically doomed. France is a perfect example of how a great culture with highly creative and artistic people is thwarted once it succumbs to some form of centralized bureaucratic, too often leftist, political control. 

It is up to Le Pen to break that mold. 

Mrs. Le Pen, whose father founded her party, the National Rally, in the 1970s, is a typical nationalist who considers the liberal world order and globalization disadvantageous to her country. Her instincts are nationalist and protectionist in everything from the economy to the culture. She profoundly mistrusts immigration and has a penchant for authoritarians of the Putin sort. Conscious that her stance against the European Union (EU) and NATO, and her attraction to the Russian dictator, weighed against her in past presidential elections (this is her third one), she has moderated some of her views; she no longer wants her country to leave the EU and has condemned Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. But she remains highly contemptuous of free markets and globalization, wants to bypass Parliament as much as possible through referenda and other direct appeals to the people, and wants to dish out lots of subsidies to all sorts of groups.

Macron has not been the reformist president he promised he would be, in a country that has been fanatically statist since the days of Jean-Baptiste Colbert, Louis XIV’s first minister, and has the world’s biggest government. (Expenditures amount to more than 60 percent of GDP.) Resistance to proposed market-driven changes has been great, and several crises, from the tumultuous yellow-vest protests to COVID-19 to the invasion of Ukraine, have distracted the current government from a reformist agenda. This is not to mention the price inflation, which is fueling Mrs. Le Pen’s campaign and has various causes, including the European Central Bank’s monetary policy.

Although populism has been growing in western Europe, its strongholds are in central and eastern Europe, where liberal democracy has been eroded by authoritarian governments. Hungary’s Viktor Orbán is the poster child for European illiberalism. Radical populism has not been able to win in Europe’s leading countries so far. (The radical Left is, however, a partner in the government of Spain, a country that ranks immediately behind Europe’s top four, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, and Italy). Mrs. Le Pen seems to be closest to achieving precisely that breakthrough.

On The Economy

A “national priority” principle would see housing and other social services given to French nationals ahead of foreigners. Le Pen also promised 25,000 new prison slots and extra police to end violence and terrorism, which have run rampant across France.

“Our program is a social one because it completely takes into account the questions of daily life, above all the cost of living,” Le Pen said.  She cares about the ordinary and working people, the French citizen, not the rich, the elites, or Macron’s banker class.

On Immigration

Still called a far-Right leader, Le Pen is not an extremist in advocating the enforcement of the laws already on the books—she has, in fact, softened her image considerably, running within the margin of error against globalist Macron. Offering her traditional hard stance on immigration and French identity, coupled with a program aimed at helping struggling households, Le Pen may be outside the mainstream. But she is fully democratic in orientation. Le Pen is promising to ban the Muslim headscarf in all public places and to hold a referendum on introducing strict controls on immigration, including a requirement that applications for residency can be made only outside France.

On Taxes

Le Pen has encouraged policies for struggling households, including a major cut in taxes on petrol and electricity to 5.5 percent from 20 percent and raises in pension payouts. Her policies seek to beat inflation and contain the cost of living, which has skyrocketed under the Macron regime. Her political impulse is pro-family, pro-community, and emphasizes local solutions. She is pro-nationalization of the French banking sector and holds other rather left-wing stances that confound her “far-Right” designation. On economic grounds especially, she certainly is not Macron.

On The European Union

Le Pen has been a fierce critic of the European Union and its globalist administrative and undemocratic structures. Earlier she wanted to leave the EU in a so-called Frexit; now she just wants to put it into its place and make Europe a Region of Nations of Freedom. Brussels is not happy and will take her election as a severe blow to its rule and federalist vision of a United States of Europe that demolishes national sovereignty.

On International Affairs

Le Pen has distanced herself from Russian President Vladimir Putin and has condemned the invasion of Ukraine. She wants to remove France from NATO’s command structure and insists on a foreign policy that puts “France First.”

Le Pen’s victory would certainly put wind in the sails of other populist-nationalist candidates around the world, as Brexit preceded Trump’s victory in 2016. Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro especially would be boosted by Le Pen’s ascension. A Le Pen Administration would wield sovereigntist principles in the major world forums like the United Nations, G7, and G20. It would also be influential in the parts of the world where France has a strong presence, particularly Africa, where the Chinese are making major gains on Western priorities. 

But she would bring the biggest shake-up to the European Union. Already the EU Parliament—where she served honorably for multiple terms, leading the resistance to globalist hegemony alongside such stalwarts as Matteo Salvini and Nigel Farage—is attempting to intercede against her with antique smears over alleged financial improprieties from over a decade ago. She won’t accept the supremacy of EU law over French legislation, and so they loathe her and cook up stories, lies, and hoaxes to try and bring her down. Sound familiar? 

Judge the woman by her enemies: globalists, Eurocrats, and the international press. France is a keystone of the international system and remains one of the most important nation-states in history. Flipping France would truly put a pause on the designs of the Davos crowd. 

And it would prove once again that Le Pen is mightier than the sword.✪

▶️ 5 Minutes 02 Seconds