The FN split
Party system change and electoral prospects
in The French party system

This chapter looks at the pre-1999 period to assess the role played by the Front National (FN) in challenging the traditional bipolar format of French politics. It analyses the historical and political factors underlying the split, the electoral performances of the two parties that emerged from this critical breakdown and the key features of party ideology within the extreme, right pole. The chapter addresses the electoral prospects of the FN and Mouvement National Républicain (MNR) in the light of their results in the presidential and legislative elections of spring 2002. With respect to the electoral strength of the far right and the format of the French party system, the 2002 elections have displayed similar trends to those observed in the preceding electoral cycle of 1995-1998. By 1997, important changes occurred in the balance of power within the FN national leadership.

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