Who is Jordan Bardella, France’s far-right poster boy and potential prime minister?

Tyler Mitchell By Tyler Mitchell Jul1,2024
Key Points
  • Exit polls indicate France’s far-right National Rally party has won the first round of legislative elections.
  • National Rally’s 28-year-old leader Jordan Bardella hopes to become prime minister if his party wins the next round.
  • Bardella is credited with sweeping away the last psychological barriers to voting far-right for many French people.
Jordan Bardella, the 28-year-old leader of France’s far-right National Rally who is eyeing the post of prime minister, has helped rejuvenate the image of a party long tainted by racism and antisemitism.
On his watch, the National Rally (RN) of three-time former presidential candidate Marine Le Pen has gone from strength to strength, achieving record scores in this month’s European elections and winning the first round of legislative polls on Sunday.

A social media star with impeccable tailoring and a penchant for selfies, Bardella now hopes to nab the post of prime minister if the RN can secure an absolute majority in the second round of voting on 7 July.

Bardella said on Sunday he wanted to be the “prime minister of all French”, respectful of the constitution in a “cohabitation” with President Emmanuel Macron, but “uncompromising”.

“The French people have handed down a clear verdict,” he said.

Mentored by Marine Le Pen

The man credited with sweeping away the last psychological barriers to voting far-right for many French people joined the RN’s forerunner, the National Front, at the age of 16.
His meteoric rise began in 2019 when the RN’s longtime leader Le Pen put him in charge of the party’s European election campaign at the age of 23.
The RN won the vote in France, a coup for Bardella, who became the first person from outside the Le Pen dynasty — Marine’s father Jean-Marie co-founded the National Front — to hold the party leadership three years later.

“I owe an enormous amount to Marine Le Pen,” Bardella acknowledged recently.

Two people look at a campaign poster featuring Marine Le Pen and Jordan Bardella

Jordan Bardella’s leadership of the National Rally has been credited for sweeping away psychological barriers to voting far-right for many French people. Source: AAP / Laurent Gillieron / EPA

Having a leader unburdened by the most notorious surname in French politics has helped the party grow its vote among pensioners, young people and university graduates, who were reluctant previously to support the anti-immigration party.

In a country where most politicians come from money and privilege, his story of being raised by a single mother in a drab tower block in the crime-blighted northern Paris suburbs struck a chord with many voters.

“He knows the real world. He’s close to us,” Tom Maiani, a 24-year-old RN party campaigner in the northeastern Lorraine region, told Agence France-Presse.

From an early age, however, Bardella’s family put him on a separate track, enrolling him in a private school.
He went on to study at the prestigious Sorbonne University before dropping out to focus on a political career.
The son of an Italian-born mother and a father with both Italian and Algerian roots, he has presented himself as a symbol of successful integration, which he contrasts with successive waves of immigration from North Africa.

Growing up surrounded by immigrants in Seine-Saint-Denis, “I saw what France will become in a few years if we do not take back control now”, he said at a rally in 2022, denouncing the “pain of becoming a stranger in your own country”.

‘Empty shell’

A polished public speaker, Bardella remains cool under pressure, shrugging off challenges from rivals in two debates this week with a disdain that led to accusations of arrogance.
His critics accuse him of spending too much time honing his image and too little time studying policy.

In a debate with Prime Minister Gabriel Attal and a leftist politician this week he tripped up on a question about the party’s plans to repeal Macron’s unpopular pension reforms.

A France 2 documentary alleged that he used an anonymous Twitter account to share racist messages when he was a local elected official, claims he has denied.
One 2017 post from the “RepNat du Gaito” account included an obscene image mocking Theo Luhaka, a young black man who suffered severe anal injuries from a police baton that year.
Bardella’s former media trainer Pascal Humeau described him as an “empty shell” in the beginning, devoid of ideology, but who proved to be a quick learner.

Leftist European politician Manon Aubry described him as a “ghost parliamentarian”, referring to his absenteeism during his five years as a European Parliament member between 2019 and 2024.

Poisoned chalice?

Becoming France’s youngest-ever prime minister, in a tense “cohabitation” with Macron, might prove to be a poisoned chalice for the ambitious right-winger.
Apart from the late centre-right leader Jacques Chirac, no French prime minister has gone on to become president in the past half a century.
It is Le Pen who is largely expected to bid for the top job when Macron’s second term ends in 2027.
She was runner-up in the last two presidential elections and has remained the party leader in parliament.

There have been rumblings within the RN, however, that her protégé could make a better candidate.

Tyler Mitchell

By Tyler Mitchell

Tyler is a renowned journalist with years of experience covering a wide range of topics including politics, entertainment, and technology. His insightful analysis and compelling storytelling have made him a trusted source for breaking news and expert commentary.

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