Tenth day of mobilization against the pension reform, Tuesday, March 28. The general intelligence fears new excesses, similar to those of March 23, the day on which the police station of Lorient and the porch of the city hall of Bordeaux burned. Acts that did not fail to condemn Marine Le Pen and the National Rally (RN), while accusing Emmanuel Macron, his government and his majority of writing the scenario deliberately.
However, as in the previous nine days of mobilization, neither Marine Le Pen, nor Jordan Bardella, nor Laure Lavalette, nor Sébastien Chenu, nor any notable figure of the National Rally will be present Tuesday in the processions. Because the strategy of the RN is a double game: to oppose the pension reform with lip service while appearing as the party of order in the eyes of the French.
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"The National Rally has perfectly understood that by remaining moderate in its communication, it was enough to reap the profits," said Sylvain Crépon, a lecturer at the University of Tours and a specialist in the French far right. "It is a strategy of contrast vis-à-vis the Nupes, which led the charge in the National Assembly against the government and whose excesses have been criticized. The RN aims to appear as a responsible party while opposing reform."
Thus, after having long called for a referendum on pension reform, Marine Le Pen called for the dissolution of the National Assembly after the use of 49.3 and the rejection of motions of censure. Emmanuel Macron "made the choice to give a second slap in the face to the French people by saying: 'Listen, here, everything that has happened will lead to nothing. Nothing. No dissolution, no reshuffle, no withdrawal of the law, nothing, we will continue as if nothing had happened," she lashed out on March 21 in an interview with AFP.
Marine Le Pen opposed to blockades
But alongside this very critical discourse vis-à-vis the executive, Marine Le Pen does not call for a strike, does not participate in demonstrations and condemns blockades. "From the moment the strikes [of garbage collectors] cause health difficulties for the French population, I think that the Minister of the Interior must intervene so that there is no health difficulty. That's not possible. On refineries, it's the same. We must not admit blockages. The strike is constitutional, the blockade is not. I am for the respect of the law, I tell them to express their disagreement by respecting the law," she said on March 20 on BFMTV.
The strategy of the National Rally in the street is in every way similar to that used in the National Assembly during debates on pension reform and, more broadly, since the beginning of the legislature in the summer of 2022. With the tabling of only some 200 amendments, the 88 RN deputies appeared to be on the sidelines of the debates that raged in the hemicycle. Even the majority, with nearly 600 amendments, wanted to modify the government's text more than the elected representatives of the extreme right.
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"Remaining calm, while letting the rebellious deputies multiply the excesses, it gives the RN a kind of managerial legitimacy without even having to advance positions, says Sylvain Crépon. All that remained for Marine Le Pen was to criticise the obstruction of La France insoumise while benefiting from it."
Because it was obviously in the interest of the National Rally to be able to regret the absence of a vote on the reform and, in particular, on the famous article 7 which raises the legal retirement age from 62 to 64. In this way, the far-right MPs were able to appear as elected representatives committed to democracy and respect for national representation.
The National Rally well helped by the majority
This strategy is clearly paying off. The leaders of the RN now appear "credible" when they express themselves on the subject of pensions for 40% of the French, the best score for a political party, according to a Harris Interactive poll for Challenges published on March 22.
The National Rally also benefits from the choices of the majority which, too busy wanting to discredit the Nupes, contributes to continue the normalization of the party founded by Jean-Marie Le Pen. This is how the Minister of Labour, Olivier Dussopt, judged in Le Monde, Marine Le Pen "much more republican" than the elected representatives of the Nupes after the latter gave him its support at the time when the LFI deputy Aurélien Saintoul had called him a "murderer".
"If we could remember just one thing: it is that in politics we have no enemies, we have opponents, we would avoid reaching such extremes," said @MLP_officiel, who on behalf of the National Rally group supports @olivierdussopt. #DirectAN pic.twitter.com/tU3o7Usfj0
— LCP (@LCP) February 13, 2023
Similarly, when the Minister of the Interior, Gérald Darmanin, accuses the left of wanting to "mess up" the National Assembly or that the President of the Republic, Emmanuel Macron, believes that La France insoumise wants to "delegitimize" the institutions, it is the RN that benefits by appearing as the party of order.
As a result, polls indicate that the National Rally is the political force that benefits most from the political and social crisis. The latest is quite telling: if early legislative elections were to be held, Marine Le Pen's candidates would come out ahead with 26% of the vote, according to an Ifop poll published on March 26 in the Journal du Dimanche – a jump of seven points compared to the first round of the legislative elections on June 12, 2022, when the candidates of the Nupes would advance by only one point (26%) and those of the presidential majority would lose five (22%).
"The real alternation is the National Rally. After Emmanuel Macron, it will be us!", repeats Marine Le Pen for several weeks.
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