The Atlantic

Inside Béziers, France’s Far-Right Laboratory

“This town is like a testing ground for what the policies of the National Front would be if Marine Le Pen were elected.”
Source: Getty Images / Pascal Guyot

These are heady times for the far right in France, and particularly for the far-right elements in the small southwestern town of Béziers. When I visited the town last year and spoke to its mayor, Robert Menard, he described the place as a sort of laboratory for the French far right, one that produces results predictive of the country’s future. “What is happening in Béziers today,” he said, “will happen in France in 20 years.”

And yet, so far, the results are mixed. On the one hand, the far-right National Front party, under the leadership of Marine Le Pen, registered its best electoral performance to date in the first round of the presidential elections on April 23. Le Pen’s path to the presidency is a difficult one; the centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron is heavily favored to win in the May 7 runoff.But her strong showing in the first round was an indication that for many in France, a far-right leadership

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