Les Deluge: France and Le Pen – EU has only itself to blame

By Sumantra Maitra
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, December 10, 2015
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French National Front leader Marine Le Pen.[CNTV]

French National Front leader Marine Le Pen. [CNTV]

The threat that looked a distant one is now suddenly very real, thanks to a massive election win for Marine Le Pen and Front National, the ultra-right, anti-immigrant, Euro skeptic party of France. In a gravity altering result, Ms. Le Pen and her party, until recently a fringe party, have galloped to first place in the initial regional elections, with the center-right conservatives second and the ruling Socialists a distant third. Nearly a third of voters backed the anti-immigration FN, which won in six out of France's 13 regions with a final vote on Dec. 13 as the decider.

The BBC has reported that Front National is getting about 28 percent, ahead of the Republican party led by former president Nicolas Sarkozy, which received just under 27 percent. The governing Socialist Party (PS) received 23.5 percent. Marine Le Pen howled on twitter, saying that the French elites are crumbling and that this is the start of a new era.

The ruling socialists and the republicans under Sarkozy are left astounded with this uncertain development, as they have no idea how to grope with this sudden rise of anti-incumbency. The French President Francois Hollande has ordered the socialist candidates to stand down and ordered their supporters to rally behind the conservatives to stop Le Pen's march at any cost. The Republicans have not responded to this generosity but said they will fight Le Pen tooth and nail to stop her from power.

Euronews has reported that a large portion of French voters are inshock, at this result in the first round of voting, as FN has made sweeping gains in the provinces traditionally considered socialist strongholds. "The National Front has taken advantage of the confusion and dissatisfaction, but it doesn't offer any viable solutions.Their program is not based on reality," one man was quoted as saying.

The representatives of French Jewish groups have also called on the electorate to block "the populist and xenophobic party" and not to give in and become a "republic destroyed from within." This comes in light of the reputation of Front National and its founder Jean Marie Le Pen as being anti-Semitic. Senior Le Pen was booted out of the party by his daughter, the current leader Marine, who wanted to shape the party to more moderate position during the last election cycle. However, her recent rhetoric reflects her deep seated views about France as a country and beacon of civilization. Although Marine Le Pen cut down on the anti-Semitic rhetoric of her father's era, the new target group is immigrants pouring into Europe from countries like Afghanistan and Arabia. Le Pen's xenophobic election posters have photos of a French Caucasian woman on one side and a Muslim woman wearing a burqa on the other side, asking the rhetorical question, which side the French people would like to choose.

Le Pen has also accused the European Union as being a super state trying to take away French sovereignty. Dumping her father's anti-Semitism, she sounded almost exactly the same, as she continued to assert her view that immigrants are now organizing a movement to occupy France like the Nazis of yesteryear. She regularly titillates the ultra-national side of the population by mentioning France's glorious imperialist past and uses French national heroes like Joan of Arc in a rhetorical way. On the one hand, this result was a shock. In a democracy, it is usually observed that the ruling party gets a boost in the event of a national tragedy or emergency. India's BJP government had a nationalist surge during the 1999 Kargil war. Similarly, Bush junior after 9/11, even the extremely unpopular Tony Blair after 7/7. All of these examples illustrate the trend. Here, the approval ratings of Monsieur Hollande soared after the Paris attack. Somehow, it didn't translate to a hard vote count. On the other hand, it is not a shock and here's why.

There's a strong wind of illiberalism blowing through Europe. On the one hand, the EU experiment has been a running disaster economically. Tying up random arbitrary countries with different labor mobility, efficiency and comparative advantages was a recipe for disaster, but EU leaders carried on with the faint hope that it would stop the great power wars that ravaged the continent for the greater part of its history, especially since the dawn of colonialism. Added to that economic disaster, which in itself is known to have an effect on the rise of ultra-right movements, were random mass immigrations, a solution provided by the ruling elites and championed by the liberal Angela Merkel, which added to the very real fear of the majority of mainland Europeans.

Finally, globalization has led to a loss of identity, and the Islamist violence has provided the light to fire up the revolt. Fear is a tactic much used by the extreme right and reactionary forces, and in this instance, some of the fear was actually backed by actions of the other sides, both leftists and liberals, which played to the psyche of the masses.

It has always been a tradition to discard the ultra-right forces in Europe as a fringe movement, but with Poland, Hungary, and now France shifting to the ultra-right, that idea has proven false. The rise of Le Pen in France is frightening and pivotal, but the EU has only itself to blame for facilitating it.

The writer is a columnist with China.org.cn. For more information please visit:


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