The 26-year-old son of a Jewish man is one of the first members of the far-right National Front party to be elected to France’s senate.
David Rachline and another National Front candidate, Stephane Ravier, were elected as senators on Sunday in the national elections for the French upper house, which never before had lawmakers from the controversial party. Rachline is France’s youngest-ever senator.
He was born to Serge Rachline, whom David Rachline in 2011 described to the news site Rue89 as a Socialist, non-practicing Jew. Serge died when David Rachline was 16.
National Front was founded by Jean-Marie Le Pen, who, like other senior members of the party, has multiple convictions for Holocaust denial and incitement to hatred against Jews.
But his daughter, Marine Le Pen, has, since her election in as party leader in 2011, tried to rehabilitate the party’s image, distancing herself from her father’s statement and from other racist expressions. Still, Jean-Marie Le Pen is the party’s honorary president.
Rue89 revealed Rachline’s Jewish roots when he was leader of the party’s youth division. Confronted with the site’s findings, Rachline downplayed their significance, saying he was neither circumcised nor did he have a bar mitzvah and that he is not Jewish “according to the books.”
According to Jewish law, only the descendants of a Jewish mother is considered Jewish. The Reform movement recognizes patrilineal descent in cases where a child is given a Jewish upbringing.
Rachline also said he was not practicing any religion, but that if he has to choose one it would be Catholicism because of its “egalitarianism.” In that interview with rue89, he acknowledged harboring sympathies for the “Equality and Reconciliation” movement of the far-right Holocaust-denier and anti-Israel activist Alain Soral.
“What I liked about Soral is his criticism of liberalism,” he said. “Besides, you can oppose Israel’s policies without being anti-Semitic.”
Rue89 journalist Nolwenn Le Blevennec wrote that she was motivated to research Rachline’s origins because, in defending a controversial statement by Jean-Marie Le Pen during an interview, he mumbled: “The things you make me say.”
Ravier, the other successful National Front candidate, reflected the party’s upbeat mood Sunday, saying: “Now there is only one more door to push open, that of the Elysee (presidential palace).”
The elections saw more than 87,500 regional and local elected officials nationwide vote for their preferred candidate, six months after the Socialists suffered a drubbing in municipal polls that saw the right make significant gains.
France’s upper house is not chosen by universal suffrage but by a “super-electorate” of elected representatives who vote to renew roughly half of the 348-seat Senate every three years.
While the Senate does not wield as much influence as the lower house National Assembly — which has the final say on voting bills through — a swing to the right in this week’s vote came as another blow for President Francois Hollande, the most unpopular president in modern French history.
His Socialist government has struggled to contain an economic crisis in France, where zero-growth, sky-high unemployment, a bulging deficit and heavy taxes are taking their toll.
Plans to redraw the map of France, cutting the number of regions from 22 to 13, have also proven controversial.
And an explosive kiss-and-tell by Hollande‘s former partner Valerie Trierweiler — painting him as a power-crazed leader who secretly despises the poor — has done nothing to boost his image.
Right-wing parties had controlled the Senate since the Fifth Republic was founded in 1958, but in 2011, the upper house flipped to the left in a historic move that planted the seeds for then-president Sarkozy’s eventual defeat to Hollande in the 2012 presidential elections.
“Nicolas Sarkozy will go down in history as the president who lost the right to its majority in the Senate,” Hollande declared at the time.
Three years on, the tables are turning again.
Sarkozy has returned to politics with a bid to stand for the presidency of the center-right UMP opposition party, and while he has not overtly declared he is eyeing the 2017 presidential election, there is little doubt it is his end-game.
The Socialists, meanwhile, suffered a drubbing in local and European elections this year and the government has already been through two cabinet reshuffles as it tries to battle the political and economic crisis.