President Hollande has put the cat amongst the Poulet Rouge with his new Marxist-centric 75% top income tax rate. A battle royal is now a certainty this election season. I look for hard-right dynamo Marine Le Pen and Front National to score big in local elections across France. Here at The Economist you get the complete picture of a fast-changing French political landscape. Monsieur Francois Hollande for certain has laid an egg grande.
IN A café on a tree-lined boulevard in Montelimar, a southern French town best-known for its sticky nougat, Julien Rochedy is working on his speech. Young, fashionably bearded and sporting both a well-cut suit and a braided black bracelet, he might be finalising a business presentation, or the launch of a fashion brand. In fact, Mr Rochedy is preparing for a public meeting of the National Front, the right-wing party led by Marine Le Pen.
The National Front (FN) has no local office in Montelimar, nor any historical hold here. The town’s narrow streets carry no posters for the evening’s meeting. But in France’s 2012 presidential election, Ms Le Pen grabbed 21% of Montelimar’s first-round vote—more than she did nationwide. So the FN is fielding Mr Rochedy as a candidate in the mayoral elections to be held in March. “I’ve come here a bit like a missionary,” he says cheerfully. That evening a few hundred people turn out, curious to hear Mr Rochedy and his star guest, Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, the 24-year-old niece of the party leader and one of the FN’s two deputies in parliament.
Mr Rochedy, author of a book on the decadence of the West and admirer of Nietzsche, is part of a phalanx of young candidates recruited to become the new face of the FN. Under Ms Le Pen’s thuggish father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, the party lurked reviled on the far right of politics. For his daughter, decontaminating the brand is part of a programme which she sees as preparing the party, in the past always a protest vote, for real power. Her anti-elitist, anti-Brussels, anti-immigrant stance is playing well with a significant fraction of her countrymen—as are similar messages from charismatic right-wing insurgents across the continent.
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