The 27-year-old newly-announced leader of France’s far-right party Le Rassemblement National (RN), Jordan Bardella, has laid out some of his new priorities and aims as he takes over from Marine Le Pen.
Mr Bardella was elected as the new leader of the party on Saturday, November 5, with 84.84% support. It is now the first time in 50 years that a Le Pen has not been in charge of the RN (after Jean-Marie Le Pen and his daughter Marine Le Pen). Ms Le Pen took over from her father in 2011.
Ms Le Pen said: “It is with much emotion that I today leave the role of president of the Rassemblement National. Congratulations to our new president, Jordan Bardella, to whom I pass the torch today.”
Of Italian origin, the new RN leader grew up poor in the Paris suburbs. He joined the RN party when he was a teenager and quickly rose up the ranks.
Mr Bardella has said that he will aim to unite all far-right groups in France, and help to “put France back on track”.
He has also previously sought to distance himself from the party’s previous reputation for racism and anti-Semitism (especially under its previous iteration as the Front National).
In a statement, he said: “I am accepting this position with humility and gravity.
“I am thinking of two women without whom I would not be who I am today. Firstly, my mother, who raised me in the financial difficulties of Drancy, in Seine-Saint-Denis, and the second person, you guessed it, is Marine Le Pen. I would like to convey to her all my gratitude and my pride."
He has also stated that “the people of France are being forced to suffer through immigration politics that they have not chosen. France should not be the world’s hotel”. “Change is urgent,” he said; “That is our ambition and our mission.”
The new leader has already been criticised by some within the party for ideological radicalisation. Yet, Mr Bardella has so far said that he will remain loyal to the ‘Marinist’ line.
Controversy has already erupted over who Mr Bardella will appoint as part of his leadership team, with fierce rivalries continuing to simmer. This includes Louis Aliot, who also ran for the role of party leader but lost with just 15.16% of the vote.
However, in his statement, Mr Bardella also thanked the organisers of the election, as well as his opponent. He offered Mr Aliot the role of first vice-presidency of the party, and said that his supporters “have their place in the coming adventure".
Mr Bardella became more prominent within the RN during Marine Le Pen’s most recent presidential bid, when she stepped back from the party’s leadership to concentrate on her campaign and Mr Bardella became interim president.
Although Ms Le Pen eventually lost, the party later won 89 seats in parliament; its best-ever result.
Despite Mr Bardella’s succession, it has been reported that Marine Le Pen is still “the source of real power”, and that she will not be retiring from politics. It is widely thought that she will run again to be president in 2027.
The RN party has still seen controversy over the past few days, after RN MP Grégoire de Fournas was suspended from the Assemblée Nationale for allegedly making a racist remark (“Go back to Africa!”) when a black MP, Carlos Martens Bilongo, was speaking.
Mr de Fournas has claimed that he was referring to migrants trying to reach Europe by boat, not to Mr Bilongo, but the remark saw a major backlash among MPs. He was suspended and docked half of his allowance.
French MP faces suspension over ‘racist’ comment in Parliament
What does Le Pen’s strong election result say about France?