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The far right is plowing its furrow in the European countryside

Photo: Loic Venance Agence France-Presse Jordan Bardella, the president of the National Rally, presents himself as the “voice of the countryside”.

Marine Do-Vale – Agence France-Presse in Paris

January 23, 2024

  • Europe

With the June European election in its sights, the far-right National Rally (RN) party of Marine Le Pen and Jordan Bardella seeks to take advantage of the anger of farmers in France and push its advantage with an electorate long won over to the right.

Head of the list for the elections of June 9, Jordan Bardella, the president of the RN, appears as the “speaker of the campaigns” and denounces “Macron’s Europe” who wants “the death of our agriculture.”

The speech is very clearly intended in opposition to the Europe of Brussels and to a president who regularly affirms his favorable stance towards the European Union, while discontent intensifies in Europe.

For several weeks, farmer demonstrations have been increasing in France, but also in Germany and other countries.

One month before the Agricultural Show, which is being held in Paris, the RN sees this crisis as a promising campaign theme and an area of ​​competition with the right-wing Les Républicains (LR) party.

“There is a part of farmers who lean to the left, with organic, all that; an electorate that has remained loyal to the traditional right, especially the most prosperous; but you also have those who are suffering the full brunt of the degradation of rurality and who are worried about European prospects, and who are an electorate available for the National Rally”, explains pollster Jérôme Sainte-Marie, who works for the RN.

If the political weight of farmers remains marginal on paper — less than 1.5% of the electorate — it nonetheless remains symbolic, if not strategic.

“It’s a numerically limited and fragmented electorate, but farmers are somewhat of the opinion leaders in rural areas. However, rurality is really the breeding ground for the vote” Le Pen or Bardella, underlines Jérôme Sainte-Marie.

The government has indicated that it will respond very quickly to this crisis. Prime Minister Gabriel Attal received organizations representing the sector on Monday, who demanded “concrete decisions”, failing which the protests will continue.

“Including Blockages”

Weakened at the polls for several elections, the Republicans do not want to be left behind by the Lepéniste party.

The leader of the LR deputies, Olivier Marleix, assured that his party “very clearly supported” the movement, “including the blockages”.

What a party leader justifies straightforwardly. “I'm afraid that the increase in tensions will do Jordan Bardella's business. Our role will be to remind everyone that on a European scale, the RN has never done anything for farmers.”

Because the countryside is far from being conquered territory for the extreme right.

“The rural electorate cannot be reduced to the agricultural electorate,” warns François Purseigle, university professor at the Polytechnic Institute of Toulouse (south-west), recalling that the agricultural community, historically on the right, is has long been “asserted as a bulwark against Jean-Marie Le Pen’s National Front.”

Until 2002, when 22% voted for him in the first round, a little more than the entire French population (16.9%). Since then, far-right voting has become commonplace, explains the sociologist. “But neither more nor less than among the rest of the French,” he asserts.

In 2002, the far right reached the second round of the presidential election for the first time. Largely beaten by Jacques Chirac, a great friend of farmers and whose heirs are the LR.

In the polls for the European elections, Jordan Bardella is clearly in the lead. His list obtains 10 points more than that of the Macronist majority, with around 30% of voting intentions. The LR list, led by François-Xavier Bellamy, is credited with 7 to 8%.

Generally speaking, believes Jérôme Sainte-Marie, the agricultural cause is “a theme perfectly suited to the European electoral campaign”. “There are many things to say about Europe and agriculture, since it is the question of food sovereignty, the question of enlargement, the question of standards.”

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116