The rise of France's far right

PARIS (Reuters) -After decades as a political pariah, the far-right National Rally is projected to emerge as France's dominant political force in Sunday's decisive second round of a parliamentary election, although likely without a working majority.

Following are historical highlights of a movement that has been dominated by the Le Pen family for more than half a century.


Former soldier Jean-Marie Le Pen founds the National Front, a fringe far-right party comprised of veterans from the Algerian war and French collaborators from the Vichy regime.


Le Pen runs in the presidential election, but garners less than 1% of the vote. Two years later, his home in Paris is attacked with a bomb. No culprit is ever found.


Le Pen is unable to secure enough backers to run for the presidential election, won by leftist François Mitterrand. In the following years, Le Pen gradually attracts new supporters.


The party wins its first seats in the National Assembly.


Le Pen makes disparaging comments about gay men with AIDS, part of a lifelong tendency to spark outrage with racist, antisemitic and homophobic slurs that often land him in legal jeopardy but which win support among a part of the electorate.


Le Pen wins 14.4% of votes in the presidential election. The following year, the National Front wins more than 10% of votes in European elections. It also begins to zero in on Islam and Muslim immigrants as one of its major political concerns.


The National Front wins three city halls in the south, Toulon, Orange and Marignane, underlining its growing electoral support.


Le Pen runs for president and wins 16.86% of votes, enough to put him into a second-round run-off against Jacques Chirac. The strong showing sends shockwaves through France and there is widespread disgust that such a far-right party could do so well. Politicians from the right and left come together to prevent Le Pen from winning the second round. Chirac wins over 80% of votes in the run-off.


A court hands Le Pen a three-month suspended prison sentence and a fine of 10,000 euros for saying the Nazi occupation of France was "not particularly inhumane".


Le Pen's daughter Marine Le Pen becomes the new leader of the National Front after a period in which the party performs badly in polls and faces growing financial pressures.


Marine Le Pen makes a first, unsuccessful run for the presidency.


The National Front has a breakthrough election year, winning control of 11 town halls and also taking first place in European Parliament elections.


Jean Marie Le Pen is suspended from the party after describing the Holocaust as "a detail" of World War Two. That same year, he is expelled by his daughter from the party.


Marine Le Pen runs for the presidency again, but loses to Emmanuel Macron. After that she increases efforts to make the party more palatable to a wider electorate, seeking to distance it from its racist and antisemitic past, and also give its lawmakers a more professional veneer, with media training and a slick social media presence. In 2018, she changes the party's name to National Rally (RN).


Jordan Bardella, a 28-year-old protege of Marine Le Pen, is chosen to be the new chairman of the RN.

June 2024

Bardella leads the party in the European Parliament elections, handing out a drubbing to Macron's party and prompting the president to call a snap legislative vote. Bardella is the RN's prime ministerial candidate.

In the June 30 first round of the French parliamentary elections, the RN finishes top with 33% of the national vote.

(Reporting by Gabriel StargardterEditing by Frances Kerry)