The 28-year-old Jordan Bardella, who could become the French prime minister, remains an enigma for many

RN leader Jordan Bardella gives a speech / EPA/EFE

The French would very much like to know who the real Jordan Bardela is. The question was interesting when Bardela was only the president of the country's largest party, the far-right National Assembly (RN). Now that he is being openly talked about as the next prime minister of the country, it has become a matter of urgency.

In two weeks, France goes to early elections called by President Emmanuel Macron after the defeat of the RN in the European Parliament elections.

If the RN scores another big victory after the July 7 runoff, then Macron will have no choice but to offer her a chance to rule. And if that happens, Bardella – who shares the party leadership with Marine Le Pen – is expected to be named prime minister, analyzes The BBC.

Marine Le Pen standing next to leader Jordan Bardela/EPA/EFE

All French people know the basics about Bardella and his meteoric rise from unemployed school dropout in the northern suburbs of Paris to Le Pen protégé and party president.

Marine Le Pen (C) and Jordan Bardella leave after a speech within the framework of the French right-wing party/EPA/EFE

They know that he is very young, only 28 years old, but that seems to matter less nowadays, when experience doesn't matter much anymore. The current president is only 46 and the prime minister is 35.


They know that he is always well-groomed, that he speaks well, that he is ultra presentable.
But what he thinks, where he stands ideologically, what kind of person he is - that is quite unknown. The French have a distinct feeling that the man they see is a package. Nicely wrapped, but the contents are a mystery.


The official version of Bardella - the one on the packaging - is a young man who grew up in a sequestered estate in Seine-Saint-Denis and, after living with the evils of drugs, poverty, lawlessness and uncontrolled immigration, believed that only the hard-liners had the answer.

As he himself said: "I am in politics because of everything I experienced there. Let it stop becoming the norm for all of France. Because what is happening there is not normal."

The truth is more nuanced. Bardella was indeed raised by his single mother, Louise, in Cité Gabriel-Péri in the city of Saint-Denis, so his experience is real enough. Both parents are of Italian descent, and his father had a grandmother from Algeria.

For a recent profile in Le Monde newspaper, the authors returned to Saint-Denis to find friends and acquaintances of the young Bardella. They found that he had left a small mark. The friends – of mixed race – remembered that he was a fan of video games and started a YouTube channel to discuss the latest releases. They recalled that he gave literacy classes to immigrants. But they don't remember any particular interest in far-right politics.

"My theory is that he looked around the political world and noticed the place where he had the best chance of climbing the ladder," Chantal Chatelain, a teacher, told Le Monde.

Bardella joined the party at 17, and his rise has been meteoric. It happened because he became part of Le Pen's outer circle.
Much of the top of the RN operates around personal relationships and clan loyalties, as it did when Le Pen's father, Jean-Marie, headed the party then known as the National Front (FN).

Days after he met Le Pen in 2017, she named him party spokesperson. In 2019, she asked him to lead the party's candidate list in the European elections, which RN won. He became an MEP. Then, in 2022, she made him party president.

According to Pascal Humeau, a media trainer who has worked with Bardella for four years, Ms Le Pen immediately saw how the young man - with his perfect story - would be useful. She called her "lion cub".

But Humo is far from complimentary of Bardella himself. The two split up after an argument over money, so his testimony should be treated with caution. But today he describes the RN leader as a product of pure Pi – ar.

“He was an empty shell. In terms of content, there wasn't much there," Humo said. "He didn't read much. He was not curious. He just absorbed the elements of the language that Marin gave him."

Humo said he worked for months to get Bardella to shed his stiff bearing and smile more naturally.

“I had to humanize the cyborg. My job was to make people who would otherwise hate him say, “Ah! For a fascist he is handsome!'

Biographer Pierre-Stephane Fort is another Bardella critic who says there is little substance behind the personal image.

“He's a chameleon. He adapts perfectly to the environment around him," he said. "And he is a chronic opportunist." There is no ideology there. He is pure strategy. He goes where the wind blows and gets in there early."

Indeed, the identification of Bardella with any of the various wings or political clans of the RN is impossible. At various times he was with the "social" wing, with a focus on the poor and the construction of social housing, and the "identity" wing, with a focus on race and the preservation of French culture. But mostly he goes where Le Pen goes.

Like her, and the party as a whole, he has a general stance built around a tough response to crime and immigration and has spoken of France being "swamped by migrants". But for the specifics, the answers are left deliberately vague.

But its popularity cannot be denied. Young women think he's "gorgeous" and has a smile and a selfie for everyone. But watch for a while and you'll see that the smile routine turns too automatic again, analyzes the BBC.

And listen for a while, and you'll hear the same sentences and formulas repeated.

In a recent TV debate with Prime Minister Gabriel Atal, Bardella held his own, but it was clear who was smarter. Fortunately for Bardella, Attal threw off his advantage by adopting a permanent smile – exactly the kind of condescension that RN thrives on.

For Le Pen, the lion cub is a huge asset and has allowed her to broaden the party's appeal far beyond its traditional social categories. With his TikTok habit, Bardella clearly connects with the youth. He regularly posts short videos of himself. He also rates well among college graduates, retirees and city dwellers – segments that have proven resistant to RNs in the past.

But the question is still not answered. Is his appeal just the result of brilliant communication or is this a man with the right stuff to lead the country?

He is 28 years old, never went to university and has no experience of governing. He never worked outside the RN (party), except for a month one summer at his father's company. Until recently, it would have been unthinkable for him to be named Prime Minister of France.

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