Foreign PolicyForeign Policy

What’s It Actually Like Living Under France’s Far Right?

By Fleur Macdonald

19 Jun 2021 · 7 min read

BEAUCAIRE, France—At 37 years old, Julien Sanchez is one of France’s youngest mayors. His slight physique and earnest look make him seem even more boyish, and he looks almost out of place in the imposing 17th century town hall. Sanchez’s interest in politics stretches back to his childhood. His grandparents, who lived in Algeria before its independence, were politically far right, but his parents were communists. “Everybody argued each time we talked politics,” he said.

At the age of 16, Sanchez joined the National Front (now known as the National Rally), an anti-immigrant and Eurosceptic far-right party—although some members would contest that description. Its founder, Jean-Marie Le Pen, has been found guilty in court for inciting racial hatred and engaging in Holocaust minimization. “I’ve always thought similarly to Jean-Marie Le Pen,” Sanchez said of his early years. “I’ve always been interested in politics and journalism.”

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