Marine Le Pen – the “True French Resistance”
As the European dream dissolves into Euromess, French domestic discontent is fuelling a resurgence on the right where a blonde knight riding the charger of the “true French Resistance” has entered the election race.
The party’s choice of Marine Le Pen (42) to succeed her 82-year-old father as leader of the FN-Front National paves the way for the FN to play king-maker in 2012 French elections. Daughter seized the reins of the party Dad founded, on an overwhelming 67.65% of the vote at the FN’s Tours conference, despite concerns among some traditionalist ultra-Catholics over her broken marriages and single mother status.
Born just weeks after the fall of the barricades in the Latin Quarter in May 1968, the National Front’s glamorous and shrewd new leader, is preparing to capitalise on the cross-European strengths of the party –anti-multiculturalism, anti-EU, anti-Islamisation, anti-globalisation — at a time of unprecedented dysfunction in the EU. Indeed for some commentators a rejuvenated FN will throughly unnerve mainstream French politicians and disrupt national politics.
Her rise can in part be attributed to political fallout from the Eurozone’s shambolic crisis management (See: Too Big to Fail: The Transatlantic Debate ). This is a direct descendent of the unrestrained regulatory disaster that surfaced in 2007 to fuel ongoing North Atlantic financial chaos and the Eurozone meltdown now sharply in focus in France. And where France leads on disruption and disarray, other EU member states will surely follow.
Edouard Lecerf, director general of the TNS-Sofres polling company says 32% of voters in the UMP party, led by President Nicolas Sarkozy until his election, say they would support a UMP-FN government in 2012. Furthermore, according to the leftwing magazine Marianne, 46% of those polled by CSA in early January say they “sometimes agree” with Marine Le Pen.
Writing on his blog about “the Eurozone’s shambolic crisis management strategy” Henry Farrell, a politics professor at George Washington University, warns of upheavals ahead for Europe: “Much less attention has been paid to the political fallout which is considerable. The bailout strategies seem almost purpose-designed to corrode popular legitimacy both in the states giving and receiving funds. If the prospect of a politically viable European Union isn’t quite dead yet, it’s haemorrhaging on the operating table, and the surgeon clearly has no clue what to do.”
And on this bloodied, slippery and febrile battlefield French presidential forces, with just 14 months to go, are now squaring-up for an election with a very uncertain outcome.
The French left, particularly the PS-Parti Socialiste opposition, is in ideological and factional disarray and barring miracles or mishaps, likely to stay that way. The fight in the election will be over whether the centre right can harness a far–right positioned as mainstream power-broker, into a coalition of interests against the centre-left and far-left, and still retain control of a volatile situation. There are few signs that the European economic quagmire will have corrected itself before the election and indeed events are on course to get much worse.
Shortly after Marine le Pen was confirmed as the new leader, a former PS presidential candidate Ségolène Royal told the Dimanche+ programme on Canal Plus TV – “As of today, the FN has a candidate and a few good programme ideas and is thus highly visible. The FN will feast on all of Nicolas Sarkozy’s unkept promises and on all his lies. The FN will gain traction because of the increasing poverty of the middle class and a large number of French people, feeling undermined, and seeking scapegoats, will vote for whoever promises safety and stability. The FN has always been anti-European and has always urged France to dump the Euro for the franc – and the recent crisis may appear to be proving them right.”
In the same arrogantly dismissive tones so widely deployed by the European Left, Royal went on: “We’ll have to hear people’s worries and offer real solutions instead of the usual dismissal in socialist circles (over concerns about immigration, Islamisation, secularism, security.) “When there are problems people need answers. If credible, solid, complicated answers aren’t provided, then people turn to simplistic answers.”
Some might say that this sums up just how far Europe’s Socialists/Social Democrats are out of step with the public mood in their respective countries.
As Arthur Goldhammer, a Harvard Center for European Studies academic and long-time left-wing commentator on the French scene, noted: “Under Marine Le Pen the FN is now potent enough to inflect the positions of others, especially on the Right … Instead of xenophobia, Marine Le Pen offers protectionism, anti-globalisation, and anti-EU rhetoric. Instead of racism, she offers the clash of civilizations, capitalising on Europe-wide Islamophobia.”
Others go further. Commenting on the FN’s leadership outcome Cynthia Fleury, a professor of political philosophy at the American University of Paris predicted that within ten years Marine Le Pen would be a cabinet minister while the Left would remain out of power way beyond 2017.
Certainly Marine Le Pen ’s victory and her appeal are not just some flash in the pan event. Behind the new FN leader stands her discreet compagnon Louis Aliot, a tough Perpignan lawyer. According to the leftwing paper Rue89: “Few know that Louis Aliot, an influential member of the National Front since 1989 and Marine Le Pen’s companion is the brains behind her campaign and the party’s role in the 2012 presidential race.” He is, says the paper, a driving force in a long term and carefully developed project. “His latest initiative has been to set up the think tank Idées nation to produce the platform for 2012 with a clear manifesto capable of making the FN a “credible, electable” party of government says Rue89.
While the leftwing elites battle to reassert control over political discourse in Europe, the grassroots appear to be headed in the opposite direction.
Early in January the widely respected newspaper, Le Monde published an article entitled: “Islam and Integration: French and Germans Admit Failure”. This was based on a poll conducted by private marketing firm IFOP, that sampled 1600 adults – 800 in France and 800 in Germany – on issues relating to Muslim integration. The poll showed that 68% of French and 75% of Germans believe Muslims are “not well integrated into society,” while 42% of French and 40% of Germans considered the presence of Muslim communities a “threat” to their national identities. An editorial in Le Monde added, “As Islam becomes a permanent and increasingly conspicuous fixture of European societies, public opinion is clearly tensing up, though disparities do appear between young and old and between left- and right-wing.”
France and Germany account jointly for some 142 million of the EU’s 501 million-strong population.
Here is a recent TV debate between the two “extremes” in French politics today: Marine Le Pen Vs Jean-Luc Mélenchon (of the Parti de Gauche) Things are warming up for the presidentials!
Story: Ken Pottinger
- Meanwhile sensing the way the political winds are blowing Brigitte Bardot, the 60s sex symbol and a possible Greens candidate for the presidency, is cashing in on developments. Her foundation has just unveiled plans, despite an outcry, to go ahead with a national campaign against halal and kosher ritural slaughter and demand all meat be properly labelled and fully traceable. La Bardot is a long time opponent of ritual religious slaughter and has been prosecuted, persecuted is how she would describe it, for “racist remarks” about Muslim rituals.
Details of the campaign can be found here.