The Front National: from systematic opposition to systemic integration?

James Shields*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalSpecial issuepeer-review


For most of its existence, the Front National (FN) fitted the classic definition of the anti-system party, opposing the founding values, institutions and elites of the Fifth Republic. Now, under Marine Le Pen's leadership, it has embarked on a strategy to integrate to the regime it once defied. Does this strategy of normalisation bear scrutiny? Using a framework drawn from Giovanni Sartori and Robert Michels, this article asks whether the FN is a one-time anti-system party that is becoming mainstream, and also whether these simple oppositional categories are adequate for understanding ideological and policy evolution in the FN's case. Through an analysis of continuity and change in FN strategy and programmes, the article shows a party torn between anti-system differentiation and institutional adaptation. It may claim to have cast out its demons but has not undertaken the necessary moderation of its programme to substantiate that claim. The FN today is on no linear path of deradicalisation but exhibits a combination of consistent, diminished and increasing radicalism across different policy areas. Despite an upward dynamic and a hugely favourable context, it remains almost entirely excluded from power and far from the breakthrough required to become a party of government.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)491-511
Number of pages21
JournalModern and Contemporary France
Issue number4
Early online date31 Oct 2014
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2014


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