French politics has been traditionally dominated by the ‘la droite’ (Republican Party) vs ‘la gauche’ (Socialist Party) competition. Nowadays it has a radically different political landscape. Currently, President Macron’s liberal centrist Renaissance party is holding the fragile balance between the radical left and right parties. In this piece, we’ll try to understand how and when the far right and left rose to power in France and what strategies they have been using on their journey to the most desired prize – the keys to the Élysée Palace.
The extreme right and left in France, who are they?
The far left in French politics is represented by Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s La France Insoumise (LFI, ‘France Unbowed’) party founded in 2016. Former MEP and a veteran politician himself, Mélenchon managed to forge an alliance with his rival left-wing parties (including the Socialist Party) ahead of the 2022 French legislative elections, naming it New Ecological and Social Popular Union (NUPES). NUPES scored great results during the 2022 elections, taking away the parliamentary majority from the alliance of President Macron and coming second, even before Macron’s presidential contender Marine Le Pen’s right-wing party (which also stole a significant amount of votes from Renaissance).
Moving to the opposite side of the spectrum, we have two radical right-wing parties: Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National (RN) and Éric Zemmour’s far-right nationalist Reconquête! party, which was founded in 2021. RN’s Marine Le Pen went on to the second round of presidential elections but lost to Macron, and her party came in third in legislative elections, becoming the largest opposition party in the National Assembly. And while both parties ideologically represent the far-right in France, they don’t always see eye to eye with their respective policies.