The French right-wing party Rassemblement National has just reached a decisive stage: fifty years after its foundation by Jean-Marie Le Pen, the party has for the first time elected a president from outside the Le Pen family, Jordan Bardella.
Results of the election, conducted online between September 30th and November 3rd, were announced on Saturday, November 5th, during the party’s 18th annual congress in Paris at the Maison de la Mutualité. Bardella won with a crushing 84.84% of the votes, while his competitor, the mayor of Perpignan Louis Aliot, received only 15.16%. The 27-year-old MEP thus becomes the head of the Rassemblement National, and the first party president not to bear the Le Pen name.
Bardella, a long-time activist, joined the party at the age of 16 when he was still in high school. He then successfully climbed the ranks, first as regional councillor of Ile-de-France, then as head of the party list for the European elections in 2019. A winning choice, since the list led by the young sovereignist, then almost unknown to the public, came out on top, ahead of the list supported by President Emmanuel Macron. During the presidential campaign of 2022, he distinguished himself by successful television appearances opposing the eminent members of government.
His campaign relied entirely on the theme of continuity and loyalty with Marine Le Pen. In his inaugural speech, Bardella focused on the traditional themes of the Rassemblement National, emphasising migration and civilisational issues. “With us, eternal France, this legacy from the depths of the ages, this magnificent human, linguistic, cultural, and civilisational odyssey will never end,” he declared at the podium—themes perfectly compatible with Éric Zemmour’s electorate, to whom Jordan Bardella has sent clear signals on numerous occasions in recent months.
Congress also allowed for the renewal of the party’s leadership team. On the executive board, we find Marine Le Pen and Louis Aliot, appointed first vice-president, but also Sébastien Chenu, vice-president of the National Assembly, and Philippe Olivier, brother-in-law of Marine Le Pen. The new president will also be able to rely on the national bureau, which has 48 members, including the members of the executive bureau.
Bardella was keen to include people close to Louis Aliot as a sign of unity. However, the historical figures of Marine Le Pen’s loyalists, such as MPs Steeve Briois and Bruno Bilde, will not be included, which has caused some internal upheaval. It is no secret that the so-called “Hénin-Beaumont clan,” named after Marine Le Pen’s historic constituency, is opposed to Jordan Bardella. Bilde and Briois accused Bardella of wanting to bend the party line further to the Right and of undermining the party’s strategy of ‘dédiabolisation’ [respectability]. Briois issued a press release to express his disagreement: “I regret that years of normalisation are being reduced to nothing, with the sole aim of pleasing an electoral minority,” he explained. He criticised “the adoption of right-wing positions contrary to neither the Right nor the Left which prevailed in the Front National.”
Jordan Bardella brushed aside these accusations, explaining that Bilde and Briois had been offered positions in the bureau, which they had refused. He said he was confident given the number of votes he received: “the figures speak for themselves.”
Bardella’s election took place against a backdrop of controversy in the National Assembly, after the remarks of Deputy Grégoire de Fournas—who criticised the laxity of migration—were deemed racist by the Left. The result obtained by Bardella, who assumes a right-wing position, suggests that the militants of the Rassemblement National were not affected by the incident.