This is meant to be a statistical analysis of the far-right, not a socio political analysis. Therefore, if your eyes can’t stand the sight of percentages, you better run away before its too late. For those still here, no better way to start off than with a neat little Excel graphic. The codes should be straightforward (L for legislative, P for presidential… you get it now). EU, regional, and local elections are not included either for lack of nationwide data or the fact that their inclusion would mess up any trend. Those elections, however, are referenced in the analysis below when they are necessary for the explanation. Lastly, you’ll probably notice that the text involves into a history of the FN, that’s because they’re the only major party of the far-right since its creation.
The above chart shows the evolution of the vote of the far-right from 1956 to 2007 (now).
In 1956, the first major post-war far-right party/group was formed- the Poujadists, formally known as Union et fraternité française (Union and French Fraternity). The UFF’s message was radically populist, with the introduction of law projects such as the re-establishment of the States-General (abolished following the Revolution) as a third house in Parliament (to add a social representation to geographical representation). Most of the UFF’s populist, Euro-sceptic, and nationalist ideas are today part of the main ideals of the FN, not surprising considering Le Pen was elected in 1956 as a UFF deputy. Anyways, back to statistics- the UFF realized a breakthrough taking over 2,4 million votes (11.6%) and 52 seats. As other anti-establishment (in this case meaning anti-Fourth Republic) parties in France (PCF, RPF) the UFF was penalized through the complex “apparentées” laws, which was in place to favor the Third Force (Socialists, RGR, MRP, Moderate right). It could have theoretically obtained around 75 seats in a purely proportional system. The UFF was laminated two years later with the birth of the the 5th Republic, only 2 UFF incumbents were re-elected under different banners (including as Le Pen under the CNIP etiquette). The far-right won 3.29% in 1958 and declined to 0.87% in 1962. In the 1965 presidential election, the candidate of the far-right, Jean-Louis Tixier-Vignancour obtained 5.2% but his candidacy failed to rally many voters not traditionally of the nationalist right. In 1966, the “Tixier Committees” (various far-right parties) were dissolved, which led to the division of the far-right into various short-lived parties. In the 1967 election the far-right fell to only 0.85%. Tixier-Vignancour was defeated in Toulon. In 1968, the far-right obtained its lowest score ever: 0.13%.
In 1972, the nationalist movement Ordre Nouveau, a neo-fascist movement similar to the Italian MSI or German NPD decided to contest the 1973 legislative elections as a larger movement- the National Front. The 1973 FN, similar to the UFF in terms of ideology, obtained 1.32% in the 1973 elections. Le Pen obtained 5.22% in Paris, the best score by a FN candidate that year. Ordre Nouveau was later dissolved by Raymond Marcellin, the Minister of the Interior in June 1973 following a violent anti-immigration rally. Led in an authoritarian fashion by Le Pen, the FN split with Ordre Nouveau, whose few supporters formed the PFN (Party of New Forces) in 1974.
Le Pen, the FN candidate in the 1974 election ran under a ultra-nationalist and populist platform, but obtained only 0.75% and supported VGE in the runoff. In the following 1978 and 1981 legislative elections, the FN obtained less than 1% in both years. In fact, the FN had only 270 members in 1980! Due to three right-wing (RPR) candidates and the pressure of the PFN, Le Pen was not able to obtain his 500 signatures mandatory to run in the 1981 presidential election. In the 1982 cantonale elections (locals), the FN began its non-stop rise, obtaining scores over 12% in various cantons in the Nord-Pas de Calais region. In the 1983 municipal elections, the far-right, even though it had obtained only 0.11% on a national level, obtained scores such as 11.3% for Le Pen in Paris’ 20th arrondissement. However, the first true success for the party came in the 1984 Euro elections where it obtained 10.95% nationally and 10 MEPs. With the rise of the FN, the PFN was dissolved in 1984- the FN had occupied the area of the French far-right.
In the 1986 election, held under proportional representation, the FN surged from 0.36% in 1981 to 9.85% that year. It elected 35 deputies, including Le Pen, Megret, Gollnisch, Peyrat (now UMP mayor of Nice), and Stirbois. The party’s top score in a department was 22.53% in the Bouches-du-Rhone, which became a long-time bastion of the far-right. In the simultaneous regional elections, the FN took 9.56% and elected 137 frontiste councillors. The support of the FN to the RPR/UDF allowed the right to gain the presidency of 7 regions, furthermore, the FN was represented in four, later six regional executives.
In 1987, Le Pen announced his candidacy in the 1988 election under a program not very different from his original 1974 program. Le Pen obtained 14.38%, much higher than 0.74% 14 years prior. In the subsequent legislative elections (held under the old two-round system, not PR) after a dissolution by newly re-elected President Mitterand, the FN and the far-right took “only” 9.79% but nonetheless placed ahead of the right (RPR/UDF) in 9 constituencies (8 in the Bouches-du-Rhone and 1 in the Var) . However, due to the end of PR, the FN lost all of its 35 seats except one in the Var, where Yann Piat was elected in that department’s 3rd constituency (she was excluded/left the FN to join the UDF before being killed in 1994). In the 1992 regional elections, the FN obtained 239 councillors in 22 metro regions.
In the 1993 elections, the FN and the far-right (mostly the smaller Alliance Nationale) obtained a total of 12.72%, and the presence of FN candidates in various runoffs could be held responsible for the defeat of the right and the re-election of Socialist incumbents in the weird constituencies, “marginal constituencies” using the British term. In the 1995 presidential election, Le Pen went up to 15% and in the subsequent June municipal elections, the FN elected mayors in three major cities (Marignane, Toulon, and Orange; later Vitrolles in 1996).
In the 1997 legislative elections, the FN obtained its best result ever in a legislative election- a total of 15.05% for the FN and other far-right parties. The FN mayor of Toulon Jean-Marie Le Chevallier was elected with 53.16% in the runoff, but his election was invalidated in 1998 and his wife, FN candidate in the subsequent by-election, was defeated.
In the March 1998 regional elections, the FN obtained 275 councillors in total, but in late 1998 and early 1999, the FN split with Bruno Megret leaving the FN to form the MNR. It is good to add that the Le Pen-Megret confrontation was long-lasting and not born in 1998 as many wrongly assume. With Megret and the new MNR went 140 FN regional councillors (131 stayed with the FN and 4 went other ways, including to a far-right Alsace regionalist movement). Le Chevallier, mayor of Toulon also left the FN to the MNR (he was defeated for re-election by the first round in 2001).
When people think of the French far-right they automatically think of 2002, not without reason. Although Le Pen increased his score of only 1.86% compared to his 1995 candidacy, the division of the left caused the defeat by the first round of Jospin and the qualification of Le Pen for the runoff. Surprisingly, the total left (PRG, PS, MDC etc) obtained more votes that the right and the far-right! The chart above (if you remember it after all this text) also counts the often-forgotten candidacy of Bruno Megret, who obtained 2.34% giving the FN-MNR a total of 19.20% of the votes nationally. Le Pen was of course defeated in the runoff taking only 18% to Chirac’s 82%. In the subsequent legislative election, the FN and MNR ran separate candidates and the far-right obtained only 12.67% in total, and all its candidates qualified for runoffs were defeated, including Jacques Bompard, mayor of Orange (re-elected in 2001 as FN, but now with de Villier’s MPF).
Contrary to what many thought would be the far-right’s first foray into 20% territory, Le Pen obtained only 10.44% in the 2007 presidential election, a poll afterwards showed that around 30% of his electors voted for the UMP candidate Nicolas Sarkozy. If those 32% had not voted for the UMP, Le Pen would have taken 21% of the vote and Sarkozy would have come second, not first, behind the PS candidate Segolene Royal. The FN disaster continued after the April presidential election- the far-right took only 4.68% in the first round of the June legislative election. The FN itself tied with the Communists, a party the FN had surpassed for the first time in 1986, with 4.29% each. Only one FN candidate reached the runoff, in the Pas de Calais department (constituency of Henin-Beaumont), Le Pen’s daughter who surprisingly increased the score of the far-right compared to June 2002. Apparently, the FN is hoping to win Henin-Beaumont in the 2008 local elections.
Is it the end of the non-stop rise for the FN? Maybe. Is it, however, the end of the far-right in France? Probably not. In fact, in a by-election in November of 2007, the FN candidate increased his party’s score from a mere 3-4% to 8%. The FN is polling at 8% for the March 2008 local elections.
Although not related to the crazy percentages here at all, it is interesting to note that numerous personalities of what is today the UMP or the UDF began their political careers in the far-right, as many PS personalities began theirs in the far-left PSU. Patrick Devedjian, Gérard Longuet, Alain Madelin were all members of Occident, a neo-fascist group that existed in the 1960s. Funnily, all three above are now pro-European and the latter two are liberals. Jacques Peyrat, UMP mayor of Nice as of now, was also a FN deputy elected in 1986.
Lastly, another thing to think about- as said above about the 1993 election, the presence of FN candidates in legislative runoffs could be blamed for the defeat of the candidates of the parliamentary right (RPR, UDF, DL, UMP) and the election of the left. In fact, in 1997, some RPR and UDF candidates were defeated by the left and the FN in three-way races, called triangulaires. Supporters of the right call these (in)famous races the triangulaires de la mort (transliterated into the triangular races of death).
Part 2- the geographic base of the FN