Who is Jordan Bardella, France's far-right leader eyeing PM post - Times of India (2024)

Jordan Bardella

, 28-year-old

far-right

National Rally (RN) leader, along with

Marine Le Pen

, is competing for victory in France's snap parliamentary election on June 30 and July 7.
President

Emmanuel Macron

called the election following a crushing defeat in the recent European elections.
Polls indicate that the RN is likely to capture the largest vote share.

However, in his lightning-speed campaign, he is pushing for more — a parliamentary majority to govern independently without a coalition.
He has promised to "restore faith in France and its greatness". The RN’s manifesto, unveiled on Monday, lays out his plan.

The key points are reducing undocumented migration, boosting purchasing power by cutting energy taxes, and exerting more authority over schools.
He has also sought to reassure voters that his party, which is seen as close to Russia, would continue to provide support to Ukraine while opposing the provision of long-range weapons.
Macron's snap election is his riskiest move yet, which might lead to an uneasy "cohabitation" period with a hard-right prime minister managing domestic matters and a liberal president focusing on foreign affairs.

If no party wins a majority, the vote could stall the parliament in gridlock.
Bardella, who has presented himself as the “only alternative” to seven years of discontent with Macron’s leadership, is seizing this chance to govern.
“In three words: We are ready,” he told supporters this week.
Meteoric rise to power
Having grown up in the banlieue of Seine-Saint-Denis, a Parisian suburb, Bardella claims he has experienced firsthand the chaos that unchecked immigration has brought to France.
The banlieues, working-class neighbourhoods around Paris that have been demonised by the right-wing, are populated by many French citizens with African ancestry.
“I have seen these lost areas of the French Republic become conquests of Islamism,” he said during a rally in 2022. “I have felt, like you and like millions of French citizens, the pain of becoming a foreigner in your own country.”
Born to parents of Italian origin, Bardella attended a semi-private Catholic school, the “only establishment in Saint-Denis where a teacher was not at risk of having a chair thrown at their head”, as he described it in an interview with French daily Le Monde.
His father Olivier’s mother was Algerian and ran a drinks distribution business, she left the household when Bardella was a child.
According to journalist Pierre-Stephane Fort biography, Bardella joined RN in 2012, at 16, after spending three weeks persuading his mother to permit him to join Le Pen’s party.
He briefly enrolled in a geography undergraduate course before dropping out to focus on his political career.
In 2014, he became the party representative for Seine-Saint-Denis. He gained the limelight when he suspended his party comrade and former friend, the local councillor Maxence Buttey, after Buttey publicly announced his conversion to Islam.
Bardella later had a romantic relationship with Kerridwen Chatillon, the daughter of Frederic Chatillon, a friend and confidante of Le Pen who introduced him to the party leader.
He became Le Pen’s protege and was appointed party spokesperson at the age of 21.
In 2019, Le Pen put him in charge of heading the party’s list in the European elections, which the RN won, securing a parliamentary seat for Eurosceptics in Brussels.
Bardella’s meteoritic ascent continued in 2022, when he was crowned RN president by Le Pen as she refocused her energies on trying to win the next

presidential election

in 2027.
“Once we are in charge, immigrant ships run by the mafia of people traffickers will not be allowed to dock in French ports,” he said following his election. “Our country’s calling is not to be the world’s hotel.”
Mild manner, hard views
The poised, social-media-savvy candidate has since led the party’s rebrand, breaking away from the racist gaffes and anti-Semitic tones of the party’s predecessor, the National Front. This strategy aims to present a more appealing image to the moderate electorate.
Bardella has sought to reassure French voters with his clean-shaved looks and mild demeanour.
“We are credible, responsible and respect French institutions,” he said as he laid out his manifesto.
By using social media to connect with young people, he is gathering support, particularly among voters who are traditionally unsympathetic towards 55-year-old Le Pen and her father. Jean-Marie, who founded the movement in the 1970s, has been convicted of hate speech and had made controversial racist remarks, including minimizing Nazi gas chambers as "a detail of history."
“Bardella is part of the party’s normalisation strategy,” Sebastien Maillard, associate fellow at Chatham House, told Al Jazeera. “His name is not Le Pen, he never got into any controversy and was very cautious about what he was saying.”
But while repackaged far-right core views remain intact.
“It is time to free the topic of immigration from social cliches,” Bardella said. “The problem of the far left is the abolition of frontiers, which leaves our country unarmed. This will lead to a saturation of our social services and a recession of our French identity.”
The RN plans to expel foreigners who commit a crime, abolish the right to nationality for people aged 11 to 18 who have lived on French soil for a minimum of five years, reduce the welfare budget by limiting social spending to French citizens and exclude dual nationals from “sensitive” jobs in defence and security.
It pledges to introduce a law “against Islamist ideologies,” but did not elaborate further on the plan.
A call for the French
Bardella has also expressed his intention to end birthright citizenship, despite experts warning that such a move would likely require constitutional changes, potentially through a referendum.
He has promised an overhaul of the education system to restore “state authority” in schools. This includes tougher punishments for misbehaviour, as well as measures to expel disruptive students or bullies from the classrooms and relocate them to newly created special centres. He wants to ban mobile phones in schools and reintroduce the use of uniforms and the respectful form of you, “vous”, to address a teacher.
On the economy, he pledged to tackle the cost of living crisis and cut energy taxes to help people make ends meet. He did not specify where he would find the funds to sustain the move.
The party has steered away from some of its older, more controversial stances, including Frexit – a French exit from the

European Union

– and quitting the Nato Atlantic alliance, instead of focusing on voter concerns about immigration and dissatisfaction with Macron.
This “tie strategy”, Maillard said, referring to the attempt to look presentable in parliament, has earned RN new voters.
According to Maillard, Macron's decision to call for a snap election was aimed at forcing RNs to present a clear plan instead of relying solely on discontent with the government.
“Macron wants RNs to prove if they really are ready [to govern],” the analyst said.
“And it’s also a call for the French to answer the question: Do you really want this?”

Who is Jordan Bardella, France's far-right leader eyeing PM post - Times of India (2024)
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