France Moving Right as Europe Collapses?
Could France move sharply right in the 2012 presidential elections, as voters grow fearful of a shattered Euro, EU state insolvencies, economic insecurity, immigration and secularism (read Islam)?
That certainly is the belief of some political observers after Marine le Pen, the shrewd 42-year-old lawyer and heiress presumptive to the leadership of the Front National, monopolized the political stage with widely condemned remarks about Muslims praying on the streets of main cities.
After humbling the Socialists Marine le Pen hastened back to her stronghold of Hénin-Beaumont (where she is a local councillor) to tell an assembled media pack: “For the first time in the history of French politics, the political class has coalesced not against the Front National but behind the Front National, the party which is setting the national agenda on the real issues, the concerns which will be the real subject of public discourse in the forthcoming presidential campaign.”
Her widely published remarks sent shockwaves across the political spectrum as most of the country shivered in a deep winter freeze and bravely set off nevertheless, to enjoy the Christmas break.
In support of her argument, Marine le Pen told the media that her key messages “secularism”, “Immigration”, “insecurity”, “the economy ” and “abandoning the Euro”, had all been picked up by the main-stream parties, who by denouncing her so vigorously, had only succeeded in placing the issues firmly on the table where all French voters can see them and decide for themselves.
As for the Euro, the picture is of increasing despair. A recent opinion poll published by the Midi Libre newspaper showed that more than a third of those questioned want France to drop the Euro and return to using the French Franc. The Ifop poll said 35% of respondents wanted “France to abandon the Euro and return to the Franc, while a majority — 52% — of those employed as salaried workers wanted out of the Euro-zone.”
According to a Le Post report the Front National leader by making her controversial remarks about secularism and the spectacle of Muslim prayers in the public realm, has succeeded in galvanizing all the other political parties to debate on its terms.
(As we reported here Socialist Party spokesman, Benoît Hamon, given a rough ride by Jean-Jacques Bourdin during an interview on the French all-news channel BFMTV finally admitted that “in the name of secularism”, praying in the street had to end.)
Le Post‘s report went on: “After Marine le Pen’s speech about praying in the street, the entire political class from the PS to the UMP, from Benoit Hamon to Jean-Francois Cope have been forced to come out on the subject of secularism as it applies to the very tough issue of Islam and immigration, effectively shifting the Front National onto the political centre stage, something the other parties, left and right, fear, given that her party’s position chimes loudly with a growing mood and rising far right trend across several European states.”
Le Post adds: “Front National scored strongly with its street prayer and immigration arguments and even more so with its calls to exit the Euro, despite a strong official Franco-German commitment to the currency union. The idea that France should quit the embattled currency is gaining ground among certain political figures and intellectuals, including Nicolas Dupont-Aignana, leading economists and commentators in magazines such as Marianne which recently suggested the country would have to face the inevitable and prepare for a withdrawal from the Euro.
Le Post concludes: “Marine Le Pen is ambitious, her discourse is that of the concerned voter, she knows her supporters well and she is a shrewd, calculating lawyer with a very different appeal from that of her father the outspoken former combatant in Indochina and Algeria. She should not be ignored nor underestimated. It is significant that reasonable people such as philosopher, Luc Ferry, can as he did recently, suggest that a preference for the Front National today does not symbolize the ultimate evil for the French intelligentsia.
Earlier as we reported Marine Le Pen, a rising star in the 2012 presidential race, caused considerable offence with remarks comparing Muslims who take over streets in parts of Paris and elsewhere for Friday prayers, with the Nazi German occupation of France during World War 11. As they were designed to do, her words provoked outrage across the political spectrum but they reflect an increasingly bitter battle for the conservative high ground in the forthcoming 2012 election battle where pollsters currently give her a 27% approval rating and 12% to 14% of voting intentions in the first round of the race.
French Political scientist Dominique Reynié, commenting on the rising political fortunes of Marine Le Pen, told Le Post newspaper: “Marine Le Pen is formidable because she hits hard, hits well and strikes where it hurts. Unlike her father, she manages to generate consensus around herself, without at the same time causing her supporters any inconvenience”.
Some even see her as a new Jeanne d’Arc but that may admittedly be over-stretching historic comparisons (don’t all email at once!).
Story: Ken Pottinger