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TikToker Jordan Bardella, 28, to be youngest French PM

TikToker Jordan Bardella, 28, to be youngest French PM
Published 2 weeks ago on Jul 01, 2024

In a political landscape increasingly shaped by social media, Jordan Bardella, a 28-year-old TikTok sensation, is on the verge of making history as France's youngest ever Prime Minister. Bardella's youthful appearance, combined with his savvy use of social media, has propelled him to the forefront of French politics, positioning him as a significant contender in the ongoing elections.

Bardella, often referred to as "the lion's cub" by Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Rally (RN) party, has utilized his boyish charm and digital prowess to connect with a younger demographic. His TikTok presence, characterized by behind-the-scenes videos and heartfelt addresses, has garnered him a substantial following of 1.5 million users, many of whom belong to Gen Z. This digital strategy has been pivotal in mobilizing support for the RN, particularly among younger voters who are historically more challenging to engage with right-wing politics.

The current political climate in France took a dramatic turn when President Emmanuel Macron called for a snap election in May. This bold move has not played out in his favor, as evidenced by the RN's sweeping victory in the first round of elections. Marine Le Pen jubilantly declared that Macron's alliance had been "almost wiped out," setting the stage for a potentially transformative second round of voting.

The RN's recent triumph has not been without controversy. Following the initial round of elections, riots and protests erupted across France, with demonstrators clashing with law enforcement. This unrest underscores the polarizing nature of Bardella's rise and the broader far-right movement in the country.

Should Bardella assume the role of Prime Minister, he would surpass the current officeholder, Gabriel Attal, who is 34, making Bardella the youngest person ever to hold the position. Attal has publicly acknowledged the far right's proximity to power, referring to them as standing "at the gates of power" after the RN's strong showing in the elections.

Bardella's background is as compelling as his political ascent. Born to an Italian immigrant mother and a businessman father who separated when he was just one year old, Bardella's entry into politics came at a young age. He joined the National Rally at 16 and later left university to dedicate himself fully to his political career. His rise within the party has been meteoric, with Le Pen appointing him as party leader in 2022 to allow her to concentrate on her presidential ambitions.

On TikTok, Bardella's content is crafted to resonate deeply with younger audiences. He frequently posts videos featuring smooth graphics, popular French music, and high-resolution footage of himself discussing pressing political issues. One particularly impactful video, posted two days before the election, shows Bardella speaking earnestly from behind a desk adorned with a French flag. With the top button of his shirt casually undone, he urged viewers to vote, declaring, "Nothing can stop a people who have started to hope again. Have faith in France, be free, be passionately French: this Sunday, June 30, mobilize, vote for the candidates of the National Rally. I count on you. We are ready."

Bardella's ability to connect with voters through social media has been a significant factor in the RN's recent success. According to POLITICO polls, nearly a third of French voters are planning to cast their ballots for the RN. This surge in support is partly attributed to Bardella's effective use of TikTok to engage younger voters, a demographic that has traditionally been more resistant to far-right ideologies.

The first round of the snap election saw the RN securing 33% of the vote, with the left-wing New Popular Front coming in second at 28%. Macron's centrist bloc lagged behind, garnering only 20% of the vote. As the RN aims for an absolute majority, the potential for a hung parliament looms large, prompting concerns among French leaders.

The prospect of a far-right government has led to calls for the formation of a "Republican Front" to block the RN from gaining an outright majority. Macron has appealed to the French public to support "clearly republican and democratic" candidates in the upcoming second round of voting. However, polling data suggests that discontented voters may be reluctant to rally against the RN, raising the possibility of a significant political shift.

France has not experienced far-right leadership since World War Two when Philippe Pétain and his prime minister, Pierre Laval, headed the Vichy regime that collaborated with the Nazis. The current electoral developments are thus being watched closely, both domestically and internationally.

To secure an absolute majority in the National Assembly, France's lower house of parliament, the RN needs to win at least 289 out of 577 seats. As the nation braces for the second round of voting, all eyes are on Bardella and the National Rally, who are poised to potentially reshape the French political landscape.

Addressing her supporters in Henin-Beaumont, Marine Le Pen celebrated the RN's victory, stating, "Democracy has spoken and the French have put the RN and its allies at the top, practically wiping out the Macron camp." With Bardella at the helm, the future of French politics may be on the cusp of a significant transformation.

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