French far-right RN picks Jordan Bardella as Le Pen successor

Jordan Bardella, a 27-year-old Le Pen protege, won nearly 85 percent of RN party members’ votes.

France’s far-right Rassemblement National (RN) party has elected Jordan Bardella as its new president, overwhelmingly backing the 27-year-old European Parliament member to succeed Marine Le Pen in the post.

Bardella, a party loyalist who had already been interim president for a year, won nearly 85 percent of party members’ votes, against 15 percent for his challenger Louis Aliot, who is Le Pen’s former partner and mayor of the southern city of Perpignan.

His nomination on Saturday comes after the party had its best-ever showing in parliamentary elections earlier this year, gaining 89 seats even after Le Pen failed to unseat Emmanuel Macron in her third run for the presidency.

It is the first time the party will be led by someone who is not a member of the Le Pen family.

Le Pen, who has toned down some of the party’s anti-immigrant, eurosceptic policies, stepped down from RN’s leadership structure in 2021 ahead of her unsuccessful bid for the presidency in this year’s election.

“I am not leaving RN to take a holiday. I will be there where the country needs me,” Le Pen told Saturday’s party convention. She is widely expected to make another presidential bid in 2027.

Bardella, who hails from a tough working-class neighbourhood, has said he will continue her efforts to attract voters beyond the party’s far-right core.

He faces the daunting task of getting the party on solid financial footing as it faces inquiries over alleged misuse of public funds by party members, including Le Pen.

Bardella told Reuters news agency last week the fact that someone from outside the Le Pen family could chair the RN represented a “small cultural revolution”.

The former National Front party was founded in 1972 by Marine’s father, Jean-Marie Le Pen.

Bardella has become one of Le Pen’s most recognised lieutenants in French media. His quick wit and brutal soundbites have made him a formidable opponent for Macron’s ministers and lawmakers on TV shows.

A boxing enthusiast raised in a social housing block on the outskirts of Paris, Bardella has risen quickly through the party ranks. In 2019, he led its campaign for European elections, when it took the top spot just ahead of Macron’s centrist party.

Bardella takes over after the French Parliament on Friday cut the pay of a far-right legislator and temporarily banned him from the chamber for shouting “Go back to Africa!” as a Black legislator was speaking during a parliamentary session.

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