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Book Sections Year : 2024

The Populist Radical-Right Turn of the Mainstream Right in France

Abstract

In comparative terms, because of the very early arrival of the populist radical right in the mid-1980s, France provides a relevant case study for the analysis of the impact that the populist radical right may have on other political actors in the party system, and how such actors respond to the new competitive challenges emerging from the electoral and organisational consolidation of their populist radical-right challenger. Therefore, the evolution of the mainstream and the populist radical right in France may be seen as a blueprint of recent developments elsewhere in Europe. In France, the established parties have adjusted their responses to the FN's political challenges, in both discourse and policy. Because of its spatial proximity to the FN, the mainstream right has been more susceptible to competition for votes with the populist radical right. In seeking to recapture the votes lost to the FN, the mainstream right has progressively moved towards more authoritarian and exclusionist positions on the cultural dimension of competition. Over time, this shift has been most discernible in immigration, security and – more recently – European integration. Taking France as a case study, this chapter looks at the extent to which the mainstream right has been undergoing a process of "radicalisation". It examines the factors that have driven such transformation, and its impact on the political left and, more broadly, on liberal democracy in the country. As discussed, the radicalisation of the mainstream right in France must be seen as a long-term process, driven by both party competition and public opinion, and which has been mediated by organisational factors. These developments have not been monotonic, however. We see significant variation in voter demand, party supply and strategy across different periods of the mainstream right in France, depending on the electoral incentives produced by shifts in public opinion and electoral performances by the populist radical right. Looking at the evolution of the mainstream right since the mid-1980s, this chapter argues that the recent reorientation of Les Républicains (LR) under the new leadership of Éric Ciotti and Laurent Wauquiez has been marked with a significant radical-right turn, which is taking LR closer than ever to the RN. Once the dominant party of the right pole of French politics, LR is now reduced to a minor flanking party. Such marginalisation casts doubt on the viability of the post-Gaullist right in the tripolar party system that has consolidated in the 2022 elections, and which is currently dominated by the radical left, Macron's Renaissance, and the RN.
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hal-04567687 , version 1 (03-05-2024)

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  • HAL Id : hal-04567687 , version 1

Cite

Gilles Ivaldi. The Populist Radical-Right Turn of the Mainstream Right in France. Cristóbal Rovira Kaltwasser. The transformation of the mainstream right and its impact on (social) democracy, Foundation for European Progressive Studies (FEPS), pp.80-93, 2024, Policy Study, 978-2-931233-74-0 9782931233740. ⟨hal-04567687⟩
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