The Atlantic

Marine Le Pen’s Glass Ceiling

The far-right leader could become France’s first female president—a prospect that has only boosted her candidacy.

Source: Stephane Mahe / Reuters

When voters in France cast their ballots in the first round of the country’s presidential election on Sunday, Marine Le Pen, the candidate of the far-right National Front (FN), is projected to become the second woman in French history to advance to the second round of a presidential election. That’s probably as far as she’ll go in her quest to become France’s first female head of state—recent polls say she will win the first round, only to lose to whoever she faces in the runoff in May.

Still, Le Pen’s ascent coincides with a historic far-right resurgence taking place across the Western world—one that, if successful, could have major implications for Europe’s institutions, its establishment parties, and its future. Le Pen’s candidacy is also historic in a country like France, whose political history, much like that of other western democraciesdoesn’t boast much female representation. French women were only afforded the right to vote and serve in public office in 1944, decades after women in Britain (1918), Germany (1918), and the United States (1920). Édith Cresson became the country’s first and only female prime minister in 1991 under President François Mitterrand, but lost the post less than a year later due to low approval ratings that some attribute to the misogynist attitudes of Socialist-party elites. Ségolène Royal, a Socialist politician who

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