Grand slam. The RN has qualified all its candidates for the second round in the seven constituencies of La Réunion, something never seen before in the history of this French department in the Indian Ocean, the most populated of the overseas territories.

“We are in Reunion, there are tropical depressions that arrive quickly,” jokes Joseph Rivière, the National Rally candidate in the third constituency.

Even though the left came out on top in six of the island's seven constituencies, the RN managed to gather 81,220 votes across the island.

In the first round of the 2022 legislative elections, the far-right party won 19,748 votes and saw all of its candidates eliminated.

“People are crushed by taxes and the constant decline in their purchasing power, people can't take it anymore,” Mr. Rivière explained to AFP, denouncing a supposed “economic and social chaos caused by Macron's party, which is supported by the left and the right.”

For Christiane Radinarivo, political scientist and researcher at the University of La Réunion, “the RN is developing an idea that is simple to understand: we must get rid of Emmanuel Macron who is impoverishing the population, we must find money and for that we must stop feeding foreigners.”

– “Dramatic” situation –
This speech found a particular echo in Reunion, located not far from Mayotte, the poorest department in France and faced with Comorian immigration which crystallizes tensions.

A few years ago, on this mixed island where several ethnic groups live side by side, Marine Le Pen's visits led to hostile demonstrations linked to her positions deemed “racist and xenophobic”.

“But now, the RN's argument, simplistic and unfounded, has ended up working, no doubt because we have to face a dramatic economic and social situation,” says Françoise Agathe, mother of two young children and unemployed.

According to INSEE figures, 36% of Reunion Islanders live below the poverty line and unemployment affects more than 115,000 people out of a total population of almost 900,000 inhabitants.

“It is the anger that was expressed against the politicians collectively,” analyses Karine Lebon, outgoing NFP deputy in the second constituency.

“The discourse that has been brewing for several years now is that the RN is the only one fighting for the disadvantaged. This is false. With the Macronist deputies, they voted against all the measures that could have improved the lives of the poorest,” she emphasizes.

– “What do we risk?” –
On Sunday evening, she came out on top in the poll. But Christelle Bègue, the RN candidate, received just over 21% of the vote. A score obtained by the representative of the far-right party is unknown to the general public.

This is also the case for several other RN candidates on the island.

“My opponent did not campaign, his photo, like those of the other candidates, is very small on the posters where we mainly see Marine Le Pen and Jordan Bardella. It is on this image that the scores were obtained”, notes Karine Lebon.

“The communication strategy is very good, people don't know the candidate but they know Le Pen and Bardella who personalize the racist ideas of their party,” says François Clain, a self-employed worker from Saint-Denis, the department's capital.

“We have to stop this, I'm not racist, I like everyone, but I just want to live better,” fumes Jean-Marc Leveneur, a fifty-year-old salesman in a supermarket in the east of the island.

“And then what do we risk? We tried the right, we tried the left, we tried the right-left. Now, we are going to try the RN and if it doesn't work, we will change again,” he warns.

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