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A run-down Paris suburb has become the origin story of Marine Le Pen’s popular protege

Some young French voters see Jordan Bardella and the far right bringing ‘order’

Jordan Bardella: the 28-year-old president of the National Rally party has had a sharp rise to prominence in recent years. Photograph: Julien De Rosa/AFP via Getty Images

Working behind the counter of a trendy off-licence selling French craft beer in the northern Paris suburb of Saint-Denis, 20-year-old Noah Courchinoux has recently started to tune into politics. In the parliamentary elections at the end of the month, the young man plans to vote for the far right National Rally (RN).

In common with a surprising number of younger voters, he is a fan of Jordan Bardella, the protege of Marine Le Pen who could become the next prime minister of France. Bardella was front and centre of RN’s campaign in the European elections, where the far right comprehensively defeated president Emmanuel Macron’s centrists. RN won 31 per cent of the vote and twice as many seats as Macron’s coalition, leading the French president to take the dramatic decision to dissolve the National Assembly and call snap parliamentary elections.

The gamble was that by upping the ante, Macron would lure French voters back to the centre. Current polling suggests that has not happened: RN remains the most popular party and is campaigning for a parliamentary majority. Left-wing parties moved quickly to group their candidates under a single Popular Front banner. As a result they have emerged as the main alternative to the far right, leaving little space for Macron’s centrists, who face possible electoral annihilation.

Courchinoux, who started working in the craft beer shop two months ago, said he prefers the RN over the left-wing “revolutionaries” like Jean-Luc Mélenchon. “My opinion, I am for the Bardella camp ... He wants order in France,” he says.


Unlike Le Pen, a notable figure on the French far right for decades, Bardella, the 28-year-old president of RN, has had a sharp rise to prominence in recent years. A compelling origin story can be very powerful in politics, and Bardella usually starts his one in a block of flats about 10 minutes walk from the craft beer shop in Saint-Denis.

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From a family with Italian roots, he grew up in a high rise complex with his mother in multicultural Seine-Saint-Denis, which Bardella said had huge problems with drug dealing and crime. The far-right politician often ties these social problems to uncontrolled immigration, which RN promises to crack down on.

Today Saint-Denis is an area that undoubtedly could see better days. The complex of flats where Bardella lived has a well kept playground and a spot for children to kick a football, but many groups of teenagers and young men hang around with not much to do. Growing up here Bardella had more advantages than others, with the French media reporting he attended a local private school.

Members of the French football team, many of whom come from immigrant backgrounds, have spoken out about the country's upcoming election. Video: David Dunne

Walking around you see a lot of paint peeling off shopfront walls. People approaching and asking for spare change are common, as are men trying to sell packets of cigarettes on the street. Still, it seems far from the unsafe and lawless ghetto Bardella sometimes seeks to portray when he talks about his youth.

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Mahesh Palle is a 24-year-old graduate from India working in a small corner shop. “It should be a nice area, but the thing is they are not taking care of it,” he says. The shop has problems with youths running in and stealing from the shelves, he says. Palle, who moved to Paris when he was 19 to study business, says his main concern is the cost of living. “They increase the price of everything but they are not increasing salaries.” Whether the country is run by Le Pen or Macron, people who work hard need to be looked after, he says.

Heavily media trained, good looking, well dressed and always strictly on message, Bardella sometimes looks as if he was grown in a lab by Le Pen. The young politician has become a force on social media platforms such as TikTok, delivering anti-immigration and other talking points of the far right as a fresh face without baggage.

Le Pen has for years been trying to detoxify her party and break the connection in voters’ minds with her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, the more extreme firebrand who founded the National Front, which she later renamed.

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The first round of the parliamentary elections in France takes place on Sunday, June 30th, with a second round of voting on July 7th. If RN’s performance in the European elections is repeated, Le Pen will largely have succeeded in her efforts to make the far right palatable.

For some younger voters, such as Courchinoux, she has already broken the link with the past. “Front National and Rassemblement National [National Rally] are not the same,” he says. “Front National is violent, it’s not a good party, but Rassemblement National is a good party, it’s not like Jean-Marie Le Pen.”