Global Independent Analytics
Lionel Baland
Lionel Baland

Location: Belgium

Specialization: Euroscepticism, Patriotic parties of Europe

France : Grassroots Politics or National Implementation?

To implant itself in the political soil, a political party has to choose between practicing politics at the grassroots or starting off at the national level.

When a political party starts off, it is weak and does not have a lot of possibilities. The number of its militants are few and its cash flow is low and no one in society knows the new party, its name or its ideas. It has to concentrate on what it thinks is the best strategy. Starting its enactment in the political landscape, a party must decide if it chooses to apply itself at the grassroots  politics or begin at the national level.

In France, the National Front worked from the very beginning at the national level. Nevertheless, it gained a few cities in the Southern part of the country in the 1990’s (Toulon, Marignane and Orange in 1995, and Vitrolles in 1997). These places were in bad shape: there was no money in the accounts of these municipalities and they had a high level of debt. Nevertheless, the elected got some good results in the management of these cities but at the end lost these municipalities, besides Orange, a city in the South of the country whose mayor is Jacques Bompard. After troubles between him and the president of his party, Jean-Marie Le Pen, he left the National Front and founded the Ligue du Sud (South League).  He is still mayor of Orange, pursuing a lot of good things for the municipality. Many inhabitants of Orange are happy with him. In the municipalities near Orange, the management of Orange became famous and Jacques Bompard extended his political action towards places near Orange. His wife, Marie-Claude, is the mayor of Bollène. At the departmental elections in 2015, Ligue du Sud gained two Cantons: Orange and Bollène.

In Nice, the fifth more populous city of France, located not far from Italy at the Mediterranean coast on the French Riviera, Philippe Vardon, who was the number two and the true boss of the Identitarians (whose leading figure is Fabrice Robert who lives in Paris), started with his political friends to establish himself in part of the city. They launched conferences, opened a pub, a bookshop and shops. In his own shop, Philippe Vardon sold nationalist clothes and Benoît Loeuillet, an important figure of the Identitarians, is still managing a patriotic bookshop. This part of Nice became the showcase of this movement. The Identitarians are very good in communication and they produced videos, banners, and carried out famous actions to decry several problems. They got a lot of success and in other countries people started actions saying they were also Identitarians and used the logo of this movement. At the same times, the Identitarians led by Philippe Vardon took part in the elections in Nice and got some interesting results, but they had to try to obtain the concurrence of the National Front that is very strong in the Southern part of France, is acting in all of the country and has gateways to the national media. At the first turn of the municipal elections in 2014 in Nice, the Identitarians, with Philippe Vardon leading, got 4.43 % and the National Front got 15.59 %, with Marie Christine Arnautu leading the list. Philippe Vardon and his friends tried at different times to join the National Front but they did not succeed. In summer 2015, some information appeared on the social networks and in the press about a rapprochement between Philippe Vardon and Marie Christine Arnautu.

At the regional elections in December 2015, Philippe Vardon and some of his friends were on the lists of the National Front in PACA (Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur) and Philippe Vardon was elected on December 13 2015 as the regional councillor of the National Front. Jacques Bompard of the Ligue du Sud succeeded at the local elections, but at failed at the national level, succeeding only near Orange. At the first round of the Regional elections in PACA, his list got 1.2 % and the National Front led by Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, the great daughter of Jean-Marie, got more than 40 %.

The National Front, working mainly at the national level, gained at the 2014 municipal elections about ten mayors (some in areas not far away from Orange, the stronghold of Jacques Bompard, benefiting from his influence) and had to manage this. For the moment, they succeeded, because the party got at the first turn of the regional elections good results in these areas.

In the case of France, we can say that the grassroot politics of Jacques Bompard and Philippe Vardon succeeded at a local level but they had to endure the competition of the National Front, active at the national level. The National Front to now work harder in cities it did not succeed in. The party didn’t win this 13 December 2015 at the second round of the elections at any region and does not have a record in management of big areas. But the mayors of about 15 patriotic municipalities (National Front, Ligue du Sud) are still working for their ideals and applying the grassroots politics. The future of national movements can play itself there.

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