Marine Le Pen Meets the Moment

Migration and economic troubles could propel her to France’s presidency

What’s happening: Polls indicate that far-right French politician Marine Le Pen is tied for the presidency, or leading outright for the first time in her long political history. While presidential elections are not until 2027, E.U. parliamentary elections — which her party is set to win — are in June.

Why it matters: Although Le Pen has run and lost twice, her strength now comes via the same issues which have bolstered other populist figures: the French establishment’s inability or unwillingness to stem the flow of migration, and a struggling economy.

Migration: France hosts hundreds of thousands of illegal migrants; many from non-Western countries are not assimilating. They have instigated massive anti-police riots and even beheaded a teacher for showing pictures of Muhammad.

  • Macron’s response: Current President Emmanuel Macron tried to address the issue with his migration bill but had to compromise with Le Pen to get it passed, granting her a significant “ideological victory.”

Economic problems: Macron forced passage of unpopular pension reform last year, prompting mass strikes and protests. Le Pen’s party voted against the bill and advocated for “national priority” which prioritizes jobs and social benefits for French citizens over migrants.

Beyond France: Le Pen recently softened her stance, abandoning calls for a "Frexit" from the E.U. and aiming instead to build a far-right European coalition, bolstering her image in France and potentially shifting E.U. parliament control to the right this June.