Is Le Pen on the far right

Truth and distrust

The term 'truth' in the current campaign

Facts, lies and promises - these dialectics are part of every election campaign, and the campaign for the presidential election in France is no exception. As scandals pile up, candidates outdo each other with promises to tell the truth - whatever they mean by it. The head of the Front National has even made this demand a trademark. Last year, when she officially announced her candidacy, Marine Le Pen presented herself as the "Candidate of Truth".

Since then, the FN has never tired of stressing the right of the French people to “the” truth, be it with regard to the euro zone, the migration crisis or the transatlantic trade agreement. Here, as in other areas, the Front National's agenda setting worked. Due to his strong position in the French political landscape, he has a structuring role. In other words: many parties define their positions in relation to him, whether it is a question of distancing themselves from his demands or, on the contrary, addressing part of his electorate. In this respect, their use of the term 'truth' is a good indication of their profile in party competition.

Hide and seek with the truth

Similarities with the election campaign in America cannot be overlooked. In France, too, the gap between the political elite and part of the population that feels abandoned is widening; There, too, an anti-system rhetoric is shaping the election campaign. But the game of hide and seek with the truth is not just an expression of a post-factual zeitgeist that has now reached most western democracies. In the neighboring country, the roots of this phenomenon reach into an old tradition: It is the result of decades of development in which the right-wing extremist FN plays a central role.

Like father like daughter

Those who inspire Le Pen's rhetoric today are less Donald Trump than her father, Jean-Marie. In the 1980s, when his party was celebrating its first electoral successes, he posed on election posters with a gag, accompanied by a clear message: "Le Pen is telling the truth, they are gagging him". “They” were journalists, politicians and intellectuals at the time, in short: the representatives of a system that has been hated and has been denounced continuously ever since.

Marine Le Pen may have opted for a strategy of de-demonization and expelled politicians who deny the Holocaust from the party. She clings to the tradition of conspiracy theory - and to the claim to tell the truth. It is noticeable how many of her sentences begin with "The truth is ...". Depending on the topic, they are declined in a loop - for example: "... that the government cannot protect the population" or "... that the people you hear represent other people". Journalists regularly turn the tables and scrutinize the facts of the Front National. In February, the news magazine L’Obs followed the trail of the FN's “opaque networks and pseudo-occupations”. The cover picture featured a portrait of Marine Le Pen in black and white. A post-it is stuck over the mouth - a clear reference to the bandage her father used at the time. The post-it says: "What she doesn't tell you".

The other candidates play along

The success of a term can be measured by whether it is adopted by others.


The man who dealt most aggressively with 'truth' at the start of the campaign was the candidate of the Conservative Party, François Fillon. In 2006 he published a book entitled “France can take the truth” (La France peut supporter la vérité). With the claim to present himself as an ambitious reformer, he took up the topic confidently. However, he used a completely different definition than Le Pen. The "courage to truth", as Fillon's election slogan was until a few weeks ago, was primarily about the reform of the welfare state and deep cuts in public spending.

The Republican is now under investigation on suspicion of bogus employment. Since then, not only has his situation as a favorite changed, but also his discourse. The ailing candidate continued to speak of the truth, but understood it to be something completely different than in the months before. From now on it was about "his" truth, which he would like to tell the French - as he wrote in a press article at the beginning of February. In a victim stance reminiscent of Le Pen's accusatory tones, he opposes his truth to that of “the system”. In the meantime, Fillon is trying to score with a new election slogan: “Will for France”. No more trace of the truth.


In the left-wing camp, however, the term has not established itself. In the socialist primary, the candidate and former Prime Minister Manuel Valls appealed to the "courage to be truthful". Like Fillon in the first phase of the election campaign, he positioned himself as a pragmatic and responsible politician. But the winner of the primary, and now the official candidate of the Socialist Party, thought nothing of it. In order to distinguish himself from his main opponent and from the candidates of the other parties, Benoît Hamon explicitly rejects the claim to truth: “I am not in possession of the truth, but I want to suggest a way forward. It's about the path of courage and ingenuity. ”Instead of speaking of the truth, the leftist“ Frondeur ”(deviant) and Hollande critic wants to“ make France's heart beat ”- that is his election slogan. This battle of words says a lot about the current split among the socialists.


An opinion is not an opinion either. The independent candidate and leader of the “En marche!” Movement, who sees himself “neither left nor right”, simply does not speak of the truth. Unlike Hamon, he doesn't reject the term, but he doesn't use it either. As if trying to strengthen his reputation as the counterpart to Le Pen, he ignores him. He limits himself to attacking the FN candidate by calling her a "lie on two legs".

Until the runoff election, and certainly beyond, the game of hide-and-seek with the truth in French politics will continue. Whoever prevails with his strategy will be announced on May 7th. It is likely that disaffection with politics and abstention from voting will primarily benefit.