Marine Le Pen, the energetic leader of France’s anti-immigrant and anti-EU Front National (FN), has quickly become one of Europe’s most influential and visible leaders. After a strong showing in the 2014 European Union elections in France and in the first round of regional elections earlier this month, Le Pen's party looked set to take office accross much of France. Yet as voters went to the polls on Sunday, opposition to FN rule galvanized. In the end, the party failed to win even one regional presidency.
But despite FN’s electoral losses, its ideology is gaining popularity across the country. The influx of migrants and refugees, growing fear of radical Islam, lackluster economic growth, and lingering unemployment have called into question national identity, multiculturalism, and the efficacy and purpose of the European Union—not just in France, but region-wide. In turn, ultra-nationalist parties such as the FN have become more powerful, with worrying repercussions.
As one of the European Union’s most powerful actors, France is perhaps one of the most striking examples of what happens when xenophobia mixes with the challenges of traditional politics. French citizens feel increasingly excluded from government decisions because, as FN would put it,
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