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““I’m going to do everything to win,” Dorian Munoz, who leads the far-right National Rally’s youth outreach in the Var region of southern France, told me in a recent interview. He’s just 27, but he’s running for mayor in La Seyne-sur-Mer, one of the region’s only remaining left-leaning cities.
For months now, the National Rally—formerly the National Front—has been aggressively campaigning for the March 2020 municipal elections. It comes after the party’s success in last May’s European Parliament elections, in which it won 23 percent of the national vote, ahead of President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist En Marche. And in its strongholds—the northern mining basin, where unemployment is high, and along the Mediterranean coast, where the memory of the Algerian war still resonates—its numbers soared, in some areas exceeding 40 percent. “Local politics is what we do best,” Munoz said. “It’s in the DNA of the party: We’re never not on the ground.” In just one year of outreach, he said, he has doubled party membership in La Seyne.
As the National Rally seeks to shed its image as a political pariah and settle into the mainstream, municipal elections have emerged as an indispensable strategy. During the last round, in 2014, it made unprecedented gains, winning mayoral races in some 12 small and midsize cities. And while big cities are generally out of reach, the party has found a sweet spot in municipalities like La Seyne, which has a population of around 65,000.”
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