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To What Extent Is The French National Front Party Just A 'protest Party'?

3345 words - 13 pages

The success of the National Front in the first round of the 2002 presidential elections came as a shock to many political commentators, especially since the National Front was weakened following the bitter internal power struggle in 1998 between Le Pen and Bruno Megret. Several political scholars began arguing that the National Front could no longer be regarded as simply a protest party whose success could be blamed on the inefficiencies and faults of the moderate parties. These scholars were now arguing that the National Front was articulating the interests of the French citizens. However, by analyzing the various theoretical positions and empirical evidence we aim to show that support for Le Pen in general lacks any core identity, that the majority of electors do not identify themselves with the National Front and that it is not a sustainable party in the long term. There are several competing analytical approaches that provide different interpretations of the character and appeal of the National Front these will be evaluated and this essay will be a discussion of the different theoretical positions followed by an analysis of the empirical literature on the National Front. It may be the case that the National Front is not a single issue protest party yet most of the voters can be labelled protest voters.Theoretical backgroundMany journalists, scholars and politicians tend to label the National Front as a protest party. In order to assess the accuracy of such statements it is first necessary to define what we mean by a protest party. There are several different ways to define a protest party some scholars prefer to explain it by direct reference to the party's behaviour (Bertz 1994; Sartori 1982), others when using the term protest party refer to the characteristics of the voters rather than the characteristics of the party programme (Van Donselaar)Party BehaviourTheorists who define a protest party in terms of a party's behaviour argue that protest parties stand outside the existing mainstream parties and are committed to changing the current dynamics of the party system. Mainstream parties, on the other hand, are those that have been parties of government or promote themselves as worthy of support because of their proximity to government. (Szczerbiak et al; 2000) Protest parties, according to Sartori (1982), reject the political system rather than the government in power they argue that the political establishment represents a 'shame democracy'. According to this scholarly position protest parties are usually single issue movements i.e. concerned with immigration, crime and unemployment and will often claim to be able to solve these social problems. Fennema, M (2003) argues that protest parties should be set apart from racist and extreme right parties. Although they share the anti-party and anti-establishment theme of extreme right and raciast ideology the only similarity between a protest party, an extreme right party and a racist party...

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