Posted on January 9, 2024

Are the Kids Alt-Right? France Is Seeing a ‘Youthquake’

Lionel Laurent, Bloomberg, January 9, 2024

President Emmanuel Macron has appointed the current French Republic’s youngest-ever prime minister, aged 34 — younger than the national median age, younger than Macron himself and younger than this columnist (it had to happen eventually). Gabriel Attal is openly gay, of Jewish and Christian Orthodox heritage, and his politics can best be described as supple: Having started his political career on the left, the move that saw his popularity rise among voters was a toughened ban on the long, flowing robes known as abayas in schools.


{snip} Age wasn’t the only factor behind Macron’s pick for the thankless job of PM in a highly centralized, presidential system; Attal’s loyalty and popularity are seen as advantages against far-right Marine Le Pen’s rising poll lead ahead of European elections this summer. But age does speak to the seeds of a potentially new kind of youthquake that could be in store for European politics. In a country dominated by baby-boomer voters and Gen-X ministers, young voters are increasingly being courted by a resurgent far-right.

As seen in other European elections from Spain to the Netherlands to Germany, young voters in France are increasingly tempted by the far-right, with Le Pen getting a 25% estimated vote share among 25-34-year-olds in the first round of presidential elections in 2022 as the above chart shows. That’s if they vote at all: More than 40% of under-24s and 25-34-year-olds stayed home, and 70% of under-35s didn’t vote in the first round of subsequent parliamentary elections that year. Macron’s aspirational white-collar centrism and its equivalent across Europe have struggled to respond to the cost-of-living crisis {snip}

Far-right parties are returning the favor by courting the youth vote with events, targeted policies like tax breaks, a sanding-down of their most extreme edges and plenty of social-media savvy. They’ve also been more willing to promote fresh faces. As young as Attal is, he’s older than Le Pen’s effective number two, 28-year-old Jordan Bardella, who’s leading the European election charge against Macron with slogans like “the French want to remain themselves in France.”


{snip} Are the kids alt-right? Attal’s about to find out.