this shadowy commando who led him to victory – L’Express

this shadowy commando who led him to victory – LExpress

Jordan Bardella can breathe. The deal is respected. With 31.5% of the votes according to initial estimates, the president of the National Rally came out on top in the European elections this Sunday, and offered the far-right party its best score in this election since its creation. For her second candidacy for the European Parliament, Marine Le Pen decided to give him room, setting only one objective: to exceed 30%. Under supervision in 2019, this time he had a free hand to lead this campaign as he saw fit.

That is to say surrounded by those closest to him. From September, the candidate assembled a small team of faithful. Friends from the start, from the time when they hung out together in the premises of the National Front youth movement, or rubbed shoulders with the same student bars in the 6th arrondissement of Paris. François Paradol and Donatien Véret, his shadow collaborators, Alexandre Loubet, deputy for Moselle, and campaign director, Pierre-Romain Thionnet, close to the frontist president who showers him with fact sheets and reading advice, Arthur Perrier, young director firm close to the Zemmourist networks, and Victor Chabert, a more recent member, former journalist at Europe 1, in charge of its press relations since September 2022.

The young frontists – most of them are in their thirties – quickly found the slogan for their first national campaign: lockdown. Everyone remembers those times when leaks, divisions, and anonymous criticism in the press undermined electoral adventures. We therefore warned the teams: “You do not speak to journalists.” “We are in commando mode,” assured Alexandre Loubet, delighted, in the fall. The battalion held up well. Not much filtered through, and almost nothing managed to taint their champion’s campaign. Nor the very meager record of Jordan Bardella in the European Parliament, where he tabled only 76 amendments, skipped 75% of his committee sessions and is not the author of any report. Nor his reversals, particularly on floor prices, France’s exit from NATO’s integrated command or the exit from the European electricity market. Nor the behavior of its allies in Brussels, some of whom have been accused of interference or caught letting themselves be told about a “remigration” plan. Since September, none of the candidate’s contradictions have had an impact on voting intentions, and nothing has stopped the frontist dynamic.

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A Charente campaign for Bardella

For nine months, Jordan Bardella campaigned in Charente, in a cocoon, and with the blessing of Marine Le Pen who gave him almost carte blanche. When an executive came to beg the boss for a place on the list for the European elections, he was immediately sent back to his friend who, she said, “was the choice to decide”. Too happy, in fact, to shed the burden of making the list. The member for Pas-de-Calais often repeats to those close to her that 2019 is one of her worst political memories. She warned Jordan Bardella: “With these lists, you make 20 happy and 200 disappointed.” The MEP chose to resolve this in his own way: “He resolves conflicts by ensuring that everything is known at the last moment, and when we find out, it’s too late to complain,” summarizes one candidate.

Some have paid the price: former elected officials like André Rougé (relegated to the unenviable 31st place), or Jean-Lin Lacapelle and Gilles Lebreton, asked to retire early. It was because we had to make room. To the new rallies, first. The essayist Malika Sorel, former supporter of François Fillon who, as noted by Le Monde, tends to embellish his journey; the former director of Frontex, Fabrice Leggeri, third on the list; the former commissioner, Mathieu Valet, in seventh position, or the lawyer close to the Manif’ pour tous circles Alexandre Varaut in thirteenth position. To the younger generation, then. Several eligible places have been reserved for new Frontist faces, or those close to the young leader. MEP Mathilde Androuet, friend of Jordan Bardella, took 4th place, Pierre-Romain Thionnet, until then boss of the young RN, inherits 23rd, Gaétan Dussaussaye, former head of the youth movement, 29th place.

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More than in 2019, Jordan Bardella managed to impose a more personal image. Halfway between the physical caricature of the old-fashioned right-wing politician and the star of social networks. And succeeds in attracting a very young audience. At the end of January, the Young People with Bardella organize a club evening on the Champs-Élysées, the candidate is introduced to rap music, welcomed like a rock star by an audience made up of young people from business schools and small radical groups. In Marseille, on March 2, for the campaign launch meeting, MP Laure Lavalette was hallucinated by the flow of young activists. “It’s crazy, my daughter came with some engineer friends, there are normal people, it’s crazy but it was unthinkable when I was young. Before there were the RG in the room and we would hide to come.”

Representative of an RN 2.0

The image of the party has evolved, and Jordan Bardella has become the perfect representative of this version 2.0. A more marketing RN, TikTok compatible and that we market with as little ideology as possible. Social networks, in recent months, have been flooded with a flood of “behind the scenes” videos of the candidate. Completely devoid of substance, these short extracts where we see Jordan Bardella drinking white wine in one gulp, or snacking on sweets before a debate, have hundreds of thousands of views. A “reality TV” trend that annoys certain party executives. “The visual side, yes it’s good and we need it, but it must not be to the detriment of the substance,” says a close friend of Marine Le Pen.

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Throughout the campaign, many have also noted Jordan Bardella’s limitations on the merits of the cases, and sometimes blame his entourage and his lack of experience. “He has often let himself be locked into the obsession of having the answer to everything, even if it means letting himself be trapped in his ready-made sentences, he should not get into this game, but hey, you learn as you grow up,” says one elected lepéniste. Others, finally, fear that the rising popularity of the young leader will overshadow Marine Le Pen.

The latter was also pushed by certain relatives to be less discreet at the end of the campaign. “We still had to show that she was there, and that she is the presidential candidate,” reframes a deputy. While few frontists believe that Jordan Bardella could want to bypass Marine Le Pen in 2027, many are carefully monitoring the rise in the MEP’s popularity internally, and above all fear that his victory in the European elections will give ideas to those around him. “There are ambitious people around him who could make him believe that this is his moment,” fears an executive. Before reassuring himself: “Finally, that’s it, the Bardella moment is over, we’ll be able to breathe.”