France’s Front National Enjoys Renaissance Under Marine Le Pen

Kim Willsher, Guardian (London), November 6, 2011

France’s far-right Front National has been enjoying a renaissance since Marine Le Pen was elected party leader this year. She is credited with bringing a softer, more feminine image to the party, founded in the 1970s by her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, whose notorious leitmotifs were xenophobia and support for the death penalty.

Marine Le Pen, 43, a candidate in next year’s presidential election, likes to claim she has “de-demonised” the party. “When you see how I am approached by people in the street and treated with kindness and affection, even among those who don’t vote for me, you can see that in the space of 10 years things have changed enormously,” she said.

“Of course some people say I’m the soft face of the devil, or Jean-Marie mark two, and suggest that nothing has changed, but that’s their only way of maintaining the wall to keep us out. If that falls, then we will be elected and they know that.” Others counter that the changes are purely cosmetic. Capital punishment, and halting immigration are still on the agenda, and the Jews have been replaced by Muslims and Islam as targets in a manifesto that is a melting pot of patriotism, protectionism, state regulation and re-industrialisation.

“It’s the politics of scapegoating and always has been,” says Nonna Mayer, an expert on France’s far right, and professor at Paris’ Institute of Political Studies.

Mayer says Marine Le Pen is good at getting her message across, “much better than her father”, but says this has its limits. “Her weakness is that she and the party are still seen as the extreme right. She’s not antisemitic or obsessed with the war like her father, but it’s still the extreme right. There’s no getting away from it.”

The Le Pen factor has been a wildcard in French politics for nearly a decade. In 2002 Jean-Marie Le Pen caused a political earthquake when he defeated the Socialist candidate in the first round of the presidential election, losing in the second round runoff to Jacques Chirac.

The party’s star waned afterwards, but Nicolas Sarkozy’s right-of-centre government picked up some of its ideas after he was elected in 2007. When Sarkozy sent riot police with teargas to dismantle Roma gipsy camps in the summer of 2010 and banned Muslims from praying in the streets just weeks after Le Pen likened the sight to the Nazi occupation, it seemed clear some far-right ideas had entered mainstream policy.

Polls a few months ago gave Marine Le Pen support of 22-23%, more than Sarkozy, who hit a low of less than 20%. Although support for her has dropped to 16-17% recently., she is still on a high.

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  • jnl

    So supporting the death penalty and opposing third-world immigration makes Mme. Le Pen a memeber of the “far-right” according to the folks over at the Guardian. Interesting. Because using their standards of what it means to be on the “far-right,” the US and pretty much every other Western nation up until the late 1960s must have been run by facsists!

  • Dario

    You know, I’m not trying to be a jerk or put a damper on the enthusiasm for Le Pen, but let’s get real. The Front National will never win the French presidency. They should focus more on getting a large regional and local presence so they look like they can be a valid alternative to the governing parties. Otherwise they will simply seem like the official protest party.

  • Dom

    I can’t undertand why are people so obsessed with opinions of extreme leftists? so extreme leftists say everybody that is little to the right than they are is extreme right…get over with…who cares…why right wingers have such a complex of left wing? they say something stupid and we are commenting what they said…almost everything they say is pretty stupid…we need to stop dealing with them and start presenting our side…attack is the best defense…instead of defending ourselves from accusations of extreme stick it to them…they are extreme left…and majority of people see that…I’ve read similar articles in many countries and ever the majority of ultra left Guardian readers say they are concerned with immigration and multiculturalism…in Europe it is obvious that people are turning to the right…we need to present our side…and maybe the old world will save the new world and return the favour to America…

  • AO

    The Guardian is a terrible news source. The fact that the Guardian is covering (slandering) anti-immigration and nationalist parties suggests that they are at least somewhat afraid.

    Good.

  • Anonymous

    1 — jnl wrote at 5:57 PM on November 8:

    “So supporting the death penalty and opposing third-world immigration makes Mme. Le Pen a memeber of the “far-right” according to the folks over at the Guardian. Interesting. Because using their standards of what it means to be on the “far-right,” the US and pretty much every other Western nation up until the late 1960s must have been run by facsists!”

    I think you’re off here. If you ever lived in Europe and knew European history you’d understand why even far right politicians abhor the death penalty. Europe has a long history of totalitarian regimes from monarchy, to fascist, to socialist/communist (even church) that thought very little of condemning masses of people to death. France enduring the “Reign of Terror” during the French Revolution. What we have here is a pioneer mentality where lawbreakers were best dealt with swiftly as little legal service was available. In Europe, it’s long been the opposite.

  • Anonymous

    mme le pen has changed the front national into an antiracist party. it is always the same, you can call yourself far right but you will only accepted by the media if you agree to be antiracist, feminist and human rights orientated. the front national opposes islamic terrorism, but does not really argue against further immigration from muslim countries, and even less against immigration from subsaharan countries

  • Bilco Baggins

    “Capital punishment, and halting immigration are still on the agenda, and the Jews have been replaced by Muslims and Islam as targets in a manifesto that is a melting pot of patriotism, protectionism, state regulation and re-industrialisation.”

    What a Woman!!!!

  • Anonymous

    “…banned Muslims from praying in the streets just weeks after Le Pen likened the sight to the Nazi occupation, it seemed clear some far-right ideas had entered mainstream policy.”

    Yes, because nothing is really radical about a group stopping the flow of traffic/people in public areas (thus society) but praying in public areas.

  • jnl

    In response to number 5 — Anonymous who wrote at 11:49 PM on November 8;

    France held its last execution in 1977, which is recent history, not the middle ages or the 18th century. And it was done by the guillotine (beheading). And even after the fascist horrors of Nazi Germany and Italy and during the Communism of the Soviet Union France was still carrying out executions well into the 1970s.

  • Anonymous

    “Jews have been replaced by Muslims and Islam as targets in a manifesto that is a melting pot of patriotism, protectionism, state regulation and re-industrialisation.”

    Front National never said a word against Jews. They did have things to say about pro muslim politicians and activists some of whom were and still are Jews. Some of these Jews were Rabbis who stood with extremist muslims to denounce the requirement that muslim girls must obey the national school dress code which by the way, was established in 1905.

    Those Rabbis actually said the standard fund raisers mantra that garners them millions a year “if the school dress code is enforced on muslim girls, when will it end? With another holocaust. First muslims and then Jews to the gas chambers.”

    There are some Catholic priests who are pro muslim activists as well. Their organization is called something like Leave My Friend Alone. Front National has denounced them all.

    I don’t know why so many Jews, even Rabbis join muslim coalitions against the European and American countries in which they live, but they keep on doing it. Cooperating with the communists was one thing, but only G-d knows why so many Jews cooperate with muslim dissidents.

    Wish we had a Le Pen family. She is a good looking woman. That always attracts favorable publicity.