Published 23rd February, 2012
The National Front or FN was founded in 1972 to bring together various strands of the far-right led by Jean-Marie Le Pen. The party describes itself as far-right and believes in French nationalism, anti-globalism, protectionism and Euroscepticism.
The first ten years of the National Front’s political existence brought little reward; they took 2.5% of the vote in 1973 and 3% in 1978. Their first electoral success was in the March 1983 municipal elections when they won a seat in the Paris region.
The first major success of the FN was in June 1984 in the European elections when they took 10.9% of the vote and ten seats.
The FN saw their largest wins in the 1986 general election when they took 35 of the 577 seats in the French National Assembly. This was to be their peak within the parliament. After that the party has scored one seat in each of the 1988, 1993 and 1997 elections. In 2002 and 2007 they won no seats.
The National Front did have further major success when their leader, Jean-Marie Le Pen managed to get through to the second round of the presidential election in 2002. In the first round he just managed to squeeze out the Socialist Party candidate, Lionel Jospin, by 0.68 of a percent. This was seen as a political earthquake within French circles and in the second round the centre-right candidate, Jacques Chirac, won with 82.21% of the vote.
Although having suffered a major decline in recent years, the party is still capable of surprises. In the 2010 regional elections the National Front won almost 12% of the vote and 118 seats.
In September 2008 Jean-Marie Le Pen announced that he was retiring as president of the FN and has subsequently been replaced by his daughter Marine Le Pen. She has sought to soften the xenophobic image of the party and in the 2012 presidential elections is polling at around 17% of the vote.
The National Front has three of the 74 national seats in the European parliament but are not members of any formal grouping. The National Front is a member of the Alliance of European National Movements.