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April 15, 2015 1:49 PM EDT

Just under a year ago, France’s Marine Le Pen told TIME her far-right National Front Party would be in power within a decade. That’s a nightmarish prospect for millions who regard her France-for-the-French message as mere jingoism—and it seemed like a stretch.

Her prediction, however, no longer seems preposterous. Le Pen has spun gold from voter exasperation, mixing charm and ambition to rack up wins in European Parliament and local elections with an anti-Europe, anti-immigration campaign. That’s made her Europe’s leading right-winger, giving like-minded politicians across the continent a dose of electability. And this month she finally split from her father, National Front founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, over his noxious anti-Semitism.

Le Pen has strong allure for many French, who have hit the wall with asphyxiating political elitism and near zero growth. To stop her race for the Élysée Palace in its tracks, France’s lackluster leaders will need to overhaul their ineffectual, gutless style and mount a more appealing revolution of their own.

Walt writes for TIME from Paris

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