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In rural France, far-right alliance seeks to expand its voter base

In Mornant, France, voters gather to hear what the candidate from the right-wing alliance with the far-right has to say.
In Mornant, France, voters gather to hear what the candidate from the right-wing alliance with the far-right has to say. Copyright Euronews
Copyright Euronews
By Lauren Chadwick
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Some members of the right-wing party Les Républicains have joined the far-right, which has created a broader base of support across France. For some, it shows there is weaker support to block the far-right from government.

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At a farm in a rural town outside of Lyon, Marine Le Pen’s niece, a figurehead of the far-right, has shown up to support a local candidate for the upcoming legislative elections.

Alexandre Humbert Dupalais is one of the 62 candidates from France’s right-wing Les Républicains who joined the party’s leader Eric Ciotti in a controversial move to team up with the far-right National Rally (RN).

But in this constituency south of Lyon, a separate right-wing candidate is supported by the historic right wing and the region’s president Laurent Wauquiez.

It’s a local example of the drama that played out at the national level when Les Républicains (LR) attempted to remove Ciotti after he tried to make an alliance with the far-right following their success in the European elections.

Some of the voters who showed up for Humbert Dupalais on Thursday said they had also listened to the right-wing candidate, 20-year-old Cindy Ferro, who is supported by the mayor of the town, Mornant, where the meeting was held.

Others were there to see Marion Maréchal, who recently was excluded from Eric Zemmour's far-right party Reconquete for attempting to make an alliance with the RN, a party she left in 2017.

Alexandre Humbert Dupalais (left) and Marion Maréchal (right)
Alexandre Humbert Dupalais (left) and Marion Maréchal (right)Euronews

“I, of course, thank Eric Ciotti who also made it possible to break this [sanitary block] to allow us to come together even though we were still separate, even competitors, only a few weeks ago,” Maréchal told Euronews.

She said they were able to agree on a programme that focuses on immigration policy, the return of state authority and the question of purchasing power.

“I think that there is a great moment of clarity for right-wing voters, today, they see clearly that on the one hand, there are LR [politicians] who continue to choose an alliance with the centre and those who now choose the union of the right-wing with the National Rally,” she added.

French newspaper Le Monde had previously reported that Ciotti's list included candidates close to Maréchal or from Zemmour's party, with few coming from LR.

Humbert Dupalais told Euronews that he has campaigned for the traditional right since he was 16 and said that he had thought members of the LR party would follow Ciotti.

Instead, the party attempted to replace him over his move to ally with the far-right.

Growth of far-right ‘predictable’

There has been a rise in support for the National Rally in France for years that has increased since Marine Le Pen rebranded it. Le Pen made it to the second round of a presidential election twice against Emmanuel Macron and increased her score significantly in 2022 with a record 41% of the vote.

In the European elections earlier this month, the party, led by 28-year-old Jordan Bardella, came first in more than 90% of French towns and could gain the most votes in the legislative elections on 30 June and 7 July.

It’s a far cry from when Le Pen’s father Jean-Marie Le Pen, who led the party from its beginning in 1972 to 2011, received 17% of the vote in 2002 compared to Jacques Chirac’s 82%.

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The elder Le Pen has been fined multiple times for dismissing the Holocaust, and his daughter excluded him from the party in an attempt to “un-demonise” it. The party’s historical origins, nonetheless, can be traced back to a French neofascist movement.

France's Greens recently called for Macron’s party to block the far-right in the second round of the legislative elections with a strategy previously used to elect the president yet this “Republican block” appears to be weakening.

Since Nicolas Sarkozy’s presidency, “a number of right-wing leaders explicitly said in the event of a duel of the left against the National Front which became the National Rally, they would not call to vote or speak out against the RN,” said Stéphane Cadiou, a political science professor at the University of Lyon 2.

“So the cracks in the Republican front [to block the far-right] are relatively long-standing,” he added.

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“For 20 years, we have seen the extreme right grow in small towns, small peri-urban towns. So it was still predictable that one day or another, the National Rally was going to challenge the traditional political parties for first place,” Cadiou said.

“It is anchoring itself more and more into a heterogeneous electorate, that is to say, it is moving into more and more categories of the population more diversified, and this is what allows it to have this much broader base than it had,” he said.

Left-wing voters in Lyon told Euronews they were very scared of the prospect of the far-right being so close to power citing the party’s origin and hardline views on immigration, but were trying to be positive about the prospects of the new left-wing coalition the New Popular Front that is currently second in the polls.

The RN supporters in Mornant do not want to hear anything about their candidate or programme representing an “extreme,” with most saying they would like to prevent what they view as a far-left party from topping the polls.

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Many are also fed up with the politics of Macron, citing the Yellow Vests crisis and the unpopular pension reform.

“I think the country needs something to happen, we need change,” said Alexandre, a 48-year-old voter from Beauvallon, the next town over.

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