Explaining the Different Strategies of Rassemblement National Mayors in the North and South of France

Dr. Timothy Peace

Mayors from the Rassemblement National (RN) have pursued varied approaches to governing since 2014, often characterised as a focus on ‘social’ policies in the north of France and issues of identity in the south. This study uses a three-step approach to explore the nature of this supposed north-south divide in policy approaches. First, we analyse the discourse of the RN local governments, through a quantitative text analysis of five years’ worth of mayoral public statements from nine towns. We show there is a broad range in the salience of ideological themes usually considered central to the mariniste RN: especially, immigration, security and socio-economic policy. Second, we describe the economic and political profile of the areas in the north and south of the country in which the mayoralties are clustered, and thereby posit a connection between the context of the town and the issues emphasised. Third, we narrow the focus on two cases at opposite ends of the spectrum, both geographically and ideologically speaking: Hénin-Beaumont and Fréjus. We analyse in greater depth how the local opportunity structures have indeed led to different discursive approaches in the post-industrial north and prosperous south, and yet many similarities in policy outputs.