HUFFINGTON POST
11/01/2014 01:26 pm ET Updated Nov 01, 2014

France's National Front Reaches Highest Membership Number Since Party Was Founded

ASSOCIATED PRESS

The crisis among political parties is everywhere, or nearly. According to our information, Marine Le Pen's National Front (FN) now counts 83,000 fully paid-up members who are eligible to vote at the party's convention on November 29 and 30. That is twice the number claimed by the far-right party at the start of 2012.

An internal source in the far-right party says the figure represents, "give or take a few hundred", the electorate that is eligible to elect the president of the FN at its triennial convention. The figure was finalized on Oct. 31 before a bailiff, but another list will be added between now and Nov. 24.

While the UMP and the Socialist Party (PS) have seen a rapid erosion of members since 2012, the National Front has made new gains, although it officially remains the third party in France in terms of the number of members in good standing. In comparison, 268,341 UMP members are eligible to vote for the conservative party's next president. A little less than 29,000 can vote for Jean-Louis Borloo's successor at the helm of the UDI. As for the PS, undermined by the left's unpopularity in power, it reports a list of 160,000 members in good standing.

100 percent more members than at the start of 2012

While Nicolas Sarkozy hopes to rekindle membership growth once he is elected president of the UMP, the membership trend currently favors the far-right party. On its website, the FN has long boasted 75,000 "members and supporters", a well-overestimated figure that has been disproven several times by statements from its executives and the official vote tallies at its conventions.

At its January 2011 convention in Tours, Le Pen was elected president of the FN with 11,546 votes versus only 5,522 for Bruno Gollnish. The electorate totaled 22,000 members. Since then, this figure has grown continuously. In 2012, the party's general secretary Steeve Briois reported 40,000 members in good standing.

Near the end of 2012, at the height of the UMP's internal crisis, Marion Maréchal-Le Pen said that the FN had seen an "explosion of memberships" with nearly "600 new members a day". Between the first round of the presidential election, which had rallied members, and the UMP's meltdown, the National Front claimed to have gone from 50,000 to 61,000 members.

With 83,000 members in November 2014, the extreme-right party is reaping the rewards of its long work to establish a local presence, which saw it garner very good results in both the municipal and European elections. With less than a month to go before the convention, Marine Le Pen can be assured of her reelection (she is the only candidate): since her arrival at the head of the party, the number of members has increased by more than 300 percent.

This article originally appeared on The Huffington Post France and was translated from French.

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