French election: Is it correct to call Le Pen and Bardella far-right?

The Rassemblement National disputed the label in court - and lost

Jordan Bardella, politician form French far-right party Rassemblement National, giving an interview
Many media outlets describe the party as far-right, something party leader Jordan Bardella (pictured) attempted to contest
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The Rassemblement National has become a mainstream party in France, but despite its success, is still described as ‘far-right’. The party even went to court to dispute the label in 2023, but lost the case. We look at whether the label is accurate.

The Rassemblement National (RN) could be on its way to a historic win in France’s parliamentary elections, after performing well in the first round on June 30. 

The RN, along with its charismatic young leader Jordan Bardella, gained 33.15% of the first-round vote share, and has taken much of the media spotlight with its iconoclastic, populist and anti-establishment appeal.

However, the media – and the French government – continue to label the party as ‘far-right’, something which the RN’s successive leaders have attempted to combat. 

Read more: Snap French election: What will far-right want if it gains more power?

Read more: Protests by 250,000 against French far-right criticised by RN voters

Court rules against party’s ‘unfairness’ claims 

In 2023, after the Senatorial elections, the RN filed a lawsuit against the French government, which had labelled the party’s candidates as extrême-drote (far or extreme right) on voting ballots and information pamphlets. 

The party said this ‘undermined the sincerity of the ballot’, and said their party should not be labelled as an extremist group. 

The government defended its decision by arguing the labelling of the party was for electoral analysis, and does not affect the intentions of voters. 

The party’s founder and former leader (when it was known as the Front National) Jean-Marie Le Pen however highlighted the different treatment compared to parties on the left of France’s political spectrum. 

He claimed there was “an unjustified difference” in that the RN were labelled as far-right, but the French Communist Party and La France Insoumise were labelled only as ‘left-wing). 

Only one radical party on the left, the New Anticapitalist Alliance, was classed as ‘extreme-left’ during the elections.

A preliminary ruling upheld the government’s decision, however the debate was eventually taken all the way to the nation’s highest courts.

In March 2024, the Conseil d'État (State Council) upheld the ruling, stating the far-right label for the party was justifiable.

This is the case for both the incumbent government and media sources. 

“Attaching the 'extreme right' descriptor [to the RN]... does not disregard the principle of the fairness of the ballot, which is not affected by the attribution of a political nuance… and is not vitiated by any manifest error of assessment," the court said in its ruling. 

Is far-right label accurate? 

During her tenure as leader of the party, Marine Le Pen attempted to soften its image and distance it from the historical associations with fascism and extreme-right activities.

This included changing the party’s name and transforming its image to more closely resemble France’s traditional political mainstream parties, such as Les Républicains or the Parti Socialiste.

She also pushed to soften the party’s stance on some – but not all – issues. 

However, a number of the party’s key policies, including its stance on immigration, means many think the far-right label is accurate. 

Read more: Bardella: we will limit legal immigration as well as illegal

In the European parliament, the group sits with the Identity and Democracy Party (ID), the furthest to the right of all the major political alliances within the bloc. 

Many of the parties that make up the group, including Italy’s Lega, Germany’s Alternative für Deutschland, Portugal’s Chega! and Austria’s Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs are also labelled as far-right by national and international press. 

Indeed, all of the parties involved in the ID group are classed as right-wing populists, a stance some political journalists see as the foundation of a ‘far-right’ tag. 

International media often label the RN as far-right, with the traditional ‘right-wing’ tag kept for the Les Républicains party. 

At The Connexion we follow the position of international media, which typically label the RN as ‘far-right’, reserving the ‘right-wing’ label for the traditionally conservative parties such as Les Républicains.