Political links with Putin have not harmed populist leaders’ election campaigns

Marine Le Pen’s ties to Vladimir Putin should have dented her French presidential campaign, but like other populist politicians who have aligned themselves with the Kremlin, she has managed to retain her popularity.

The far-right populist politician, who wants to sever France’s links with NATO and the US if she is elected, has previously stated her admiration of Putin and defended him on a number of occasions.

And although Le Pen has recently condemned his invasion of Ukraine, she has also called for a ‘strategic rapprochement’ with Russia once the conflict is over.

On Sunday (24), French voters will visit polling stations across the country to decide who they want to be the next president – Le Pen or Emmanual Macron.

Logically, Le Pen’s association with Vladimir Putin should have buried her campaign, according to Dr Gerhard Schnyder, an expert in international relations and populism at Loughborough University London.

But that hasn’t happened.

It is one of a number of cases in Europe where politicians, who have aligned themselves with the Russian President, have seen their popularity increase.

Dr Schnyder said: "The war in Ukraine is first and foremost a big challenge for populists in Europe because siding with Putin against domestic governments – for populists in opposition – has always been a media stunt that they like to pull.

"You remember (Matteo) Salvini (former Deputy Prime Minister of Italy) wearing a Putin t-shirt on the Red Square in Moscow. You remember Marine Le Pen in France having her picture taken during the 2017 campaign shaking hands with Putin.

"It's always had this factor of provocation, but also showing we stand for something different... we reject this softy, liberal, globalist of Western Europe that our governments adopt, and we stand for what Orban called, the liberal democracy."

New re-elected Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban – a nationalist – has met Vladimir Putin 12 times in the last 12 years and is known for his close relationship with the Russian premier.

"Quite frankly I expected it to force these populists to keep their distances from Putin, but in actual fact that's not what has happened,” said Dr Schnyder, speaking on Besieged: A podcast about Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Hungary had an election and Orban was elected with a two-thirds majority.

"That's quite astonishing in the current context, especially if you compare it to Poland, where the Polish populist government takes a very anti-Putin stance and is solidaristic with Ukraine.

"So, in Hungary, the proximity to Putin hasn't harmed Orban's electoral campaign.

“The same is true for France, where we can see that Marine Le Pen is polling very well - she may actually win.

"If you asked me to put my money on Macron or Le Pen, I would say Le Pen.

He added: "But to me, it’s a puzzle. Why did this proximity to Putin not hurt them?"

To listen to the episode, visit Apple PodcastsSpotifyAmazon Music, TuneIn+Alexa and YouTube.

Besieged is produced by Dane Vincent and hosted by Peter Warzynski and invites experts from Loughborough University to discuss wide-ranging issues linked to the war in Ukraine.


Putin and Le Pen’s populist partnership / E5 - Besieged: A podcast about Putin’s invasion of Ukraine

Download video/audio: http://www.lboro.ac.uk/media-centre/video-audio/2022/besieged-e5

YouTube link: https://youtu.be/HF-nQo6MnR0

YouTube embed code: <iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/HF-nQo6MnR0" title="YouTube video player" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe>

Episode link: https://www.buzzsprout.com/1964659/10438133

Embed audio episode: <iframe src="https://www.buzzsprout.com/1964659/10438133-e5-putin-and-le-pen-s-populist-partnership?client_source=small_player&iframe=true" loading="lazy" width="100%" height="200" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title='Besieged: A podcast about Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, E5 - Putin and Le Pen’s populist partnership'></iframe>

Embed series: <iframe id="player_iframe" src="https://www.buzzsprout.com/1964659?client_source=large_player&iframe=true&referrer=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.buzzsprout.com%2F1964659%2Fpodcast%2Fembed" loading="lazy" width="100%" height="375" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="Besieged: A podcast about Putin’s invasion of Ukraine"></iframe>


Apple Podcasts: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/besieged-a-podcast-about-putins-invasion-of-ukraine/id1616624070

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/show/0sjZyr8S4SagrUuaNlBaGN

Besieged: A podcast about Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music, TuneIn+Alexa and YouTube.

Please credit 'Loughborough University', where possible.

For further video/audio support, please contact d.t.vincent@lboro.ac.uk


Notes for editors

Press release reference number: 22/72

Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.

It has been awarded five stars in the independent QS Stars university rating scheme, named the best university in the world for sports-related subjects in the 2022 QS World University Rankings and University of the Year for Sport by The Times and Sunday Times University Guide 2022.

Loughborough is in the top 10 of every national league table, being ranked 7th in The UK Complete University Guide 2022, and 10th in both the Guardian University League Table 2022 and the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2022.

Loughborough is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in the Times Higher Education’s ‘table of tables’ and is in the top 10 in England for research intensity. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, Loughborough has been awarded seven Queen's Anniversary Prizes.

The Loughborough University London campus is based on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and offers postgraduate and executive-level education, as well as research and enterprise opportunities. It is home to influential thought leaders, pioneering researchers and creative innovators who provide students with the highest quality of teaching and the very latest in modern thinking.