Exclusive interview with Aline Burni, PhD in political science and researcher at the Observatory of the Far Right.

“Institutions will have to work hard and remain vigilant,” says Aline Burni, PhD in Political Science from UFMG and researcher at the Observatory of the Far Right (ODE), when commenting on the advance of the Rassemblement National (RN), led by Marine Le Pen, which won 33% of the votes in the legislative elections in France. This historic result reflects the party’s long-standing strategy of de-demonizing and normalizing, making it a significant political force.

Burni analyzed the agreement between the left bloc and Emmanuel Macron’s camp, indicating that, although fragile, it is essential to stop the advance of the extreme right. The agreement consists of withdrawing candidates in situations where unity against the RN is necessary, but the lack of clarity and complete consensus could limit its effectiveness.

Burni also highlighted the progressive camp’s biggest fears in the face of a possible Le Pen government, such as Russia’s influence and the possibility of unequal rights for different categories of citizens, especially immigrants and minorities. According to her, the normalization of extremist measures poses a significant risk to French democracy, which could gradually deteriorate within the institutions themselves.

Aline Burni is based in Brussels, Belgium. Credit: Aline Burni.

Read the main excerpts from the interview below:

O Cafezinho: How do you evaluate the result of Sunday’s elections?

Aline Burni: It was an exceptional result for the radical right party led by Marine Le Pen, the Rassemblement National, which for the first time came first in the legislative elections (with 33%) – a type of election that makes it difficult for more extreme and ‘anti-establishment’ parties to perform – in a context of high voter turnout. The RN has already elected 39 candidates in the first round and has a real chance, for the first time, of obtaining an absolute majority in the National Assembly and appointing the Prime Minister, forming a cohabitation government with Emmanuel Macron. In my view, even though Macron’s camp held out with 20% and mobilized a little more than in the European Parliament elections 3 weeks ago, it was a major defeat for the president, given the immense and direct responsibility he has for this approach of the radical right to the gates of power. Macron took a risky gamble by calling early elections. However, it is important to emphasize that the growth of the radical right in France is a project initiated by Marine Le Pen more than 15 years ago, through a strategy of ‘de-demonization’, ‘normalization’ and ‘professionalization’ of the party. The RN has managed to establish itself in the most remote territories of France, as well as on social networks, creating an army of supporters, cadres and influencers that allows the party to be seen as a credible alternative to take power today.

The Coffee: Will this agreement between Mélenchon and Macron be enough to stop the advance of the extreme right (Rassemblement)?

Aline Burni: The agreement is not clear and is already fragile, because on one side the left-wing bloc, the New Popular Front, has indicated that it will withdraw its candidates from the so-called ‘triangular’ (second-round contests between three candidates) when the candidate comes in third place, leaving room for the candidate on Macron’s list to try to beat the radical right. The signals from the Macronist camp have been ambiguous, with some figures proposing the same thing – withdrawing the Macronist candidate when he has no chance of beating the radical right – but others argue that this should only be done in the case of left-wing candidates who share ‘republican’ values ​​– that is, on a case-by-case basis. Some Macronists call for opposition both to the radical right and to the left-wing bloc when represented by a candidate from the LFI (La France Insoumise), treating the two extremes as equivalent. We need to wait for the decisions to withdraw the candidacy during the course of this week, but in my reading it seems that the most effective way to contain the RN and make it difficult/prevent it from obtaining an absolute majority in the National Assembly is in fact for Macron and the left bloc to reach an agreement and be able to present only one candidacy before the RN. In other words, the agreement will not be enough, but it seems to me to be the only possible way to contain the RN.

O Cafezinho: If it is not and the Rassemblement gets enough votes to enter the government and demand important ministries, do you think that French civil society (universities, media, intellectuals, institutions, etc.) will have the strength to stop more aggressive or extremist measures? By the way, what are the greatest fears that the progressive camp has regarding a possible Le Pen government?

Aline Burni: Many sectors of French society have already become radicalized and are joining the RN on one side, or the most radical groups on the left on the other. As in other countries (Brazil, the United States, etc.), French society is quite polarized. French democracy is very strong and the institutions are solid. The fact that France is part of the European Union is also a factor that provides room for maneuver for possible drastic changes on the part of the radical right. So, I think that the system is capable of containing certain extremist measures, but the institutions will have to work hard and remain vigilant. The real issue is that many of the RN’s measures are now considered ‘normalized’ and seen as ‘watered down’, they are no longer seen as anti-democratic or extreme – and this is the real problem, because the degradation of democracy can end up happening gradually and ‘from within’ the institutions themselves – parliament, the bureaucracy, etc. I think two of the biggest fears of progressives regarding the RN are the influence of Russia in a Bardella/Le Pen government, given that the RN is a party with alleged connections to the Putin regime and that it has questioned the continued support for Ukraine in the war. The other fear concerns unequal rights for ‘different categories of citizens’, that is, a fear of diminished rights for immigrants, bi-national French people and minorities in general. There is a fear that the radical right will implement a categorization of citizens according to who is ‘more or less French’ and grant rights and public services in an unequal and unfair way based on this distinction.

Source: https://www.ocafezinho.com/2024/07/01/as-instituicoes-francesas-tem-condicoes-de-conter-o-extremismo-mas-terao-que-se-manter-vigilantes/

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