Tuesday, April 24, 2012

In the French Style

On Sunday the French voted in their Presidential election. In the first round, the Socialist candidate Hollande beat incumbent President Sarkozy.

Round 2 happens the first week of May. But the telling thing, to me is that Marine Le Pen, who re-vamped and modernized the far right Front National, garnered close to %20 of the vote. She and her right wing party could be the next kingmakers.

While Marine Le Pen didn't qualify for the second round, she scored a significant victory on Sunday. She won 18.01 percent of votes and proved herself to be not only the uncontested third voice of the first round, but also the face of a renewed National Front. Marine celebrated at her election headquarters giving a rousing 'victory' speech, burst into La Marseillaise then danced impromptu with supporters to a Lionel Ritchie song. Le Pen has already demonstrated herself as a more formidable and cannier leader of the movement than her father, Jean-Marie. His crude antisemitism, racism, and second world war revisionism made him the object of mockery as well as fear. People do not laugh at Marine Le Pen as they did at her father. Her timing has been impeccable with the two big contemporary issues fueling the rise of illiberal populism everywhere in Europe except Germany and the Iberian peninsula – the eurozone crisis and Muslim immigration. Islamophobia, many say, is the new antisemitism for the current generation of rebels, while austerity decided by Europe's leaders as the answer to runaway debt, soaring deficits, and a failing Euro supplies fertile ground for the populist campaigners. Her father, who referred to the Holocaust as a detail in history, led the FN for many years and was dismissed by many as old school, a Vichyist gave the reigns to his youngest daughter, Marine. Marine a lawyer, twice divorced and blond speaks on issues not only appealing to the far right and disenfranchised but - the danger zone - the fed-up liberal intellectuals. Winning 22.12 percent in Alsace, 25.91 percent in Gard, where she came out on top, and 24.38 percent of votes in Corsica, where she beat François Hollande by a slim margin, Le Pen reinforced the political foothold inherited from her father. For Le Pen, the votes validate her strategy of rehabilitating the National Front, and returning to traditional refrains of immigration, Islam and security late in the campaign In essence her strong showing destins her party as the kingmaker. For now she refuses to endorse

either candidate until May 1st, workers day. It also depends on how the FN members choose to vote in a close election and whether those who voted for LePen would turn to Sarkozy, a 'failure' or Hollande the 'milquetoast'. But inside the FN it's a toss-up and vote splitting will color the election. The blond might have the last laugh.

Cara - Tuesday


  1. I seem to say this often: these are such strange times.

  2. lil it might get to nailbiting time for both Sarko and Hollande if Le Pen's votes get split!

  3. As you point out, Cara, there is real reason for alarm in Europe these days. Greece's elections are on Sunday, May 6th. For the first time in decades no one party will gain a majority because so many other parties have formed to compete for the affections of a massively dissatisfied electorate. And of them all the most sinister is Cyrsi Avgi (Golden Dawn).

    A party needs 3% of the vote to gain representation in Greece's Parliament and estimates for Cyrisi Avgi run between 3-7% which will put into Parliament a party that has as its symbol a play on the Swastika, uses the red and black of the Nazi party as its colors, adorns its party magazine with Nazi figures such as an issue dedicated to Rudolf Hess and another with Adolf Hitler saluting his troops on the front page.


  4. A recurring theme in the books published by the writers in the Nordic countries is the rise of Neo-Nazi parties and an increase in sympathizers who espouse the ideas that brought Hitler to power in 1932.

    As in the thirties, young adults were faced with bleak futures. No matter their levels of education, they could not then, as now, move into full adult roles. Then, the blame for their anger was placed on the Jews. Now it is being placed on immigrants.

    I'll go beyond Jeff. Be afraid. Unless the young people can see something to look forwrd to as they grow older, the fabric of the cultures we have created will disappear after a generation. Mine was the first generation in the US to achieve college educations. My children's generation are giving up on college because of the cost and the virtual impossibility of being able to repay student loans.

    Tonight, NBC News did a piece on the college debt problem. Some students are graduating $250,000.00 is debt, an amount that seems impossible until one considers yearly tuition of $50,000.00 plus room, board, and books. Without jobs, they cannot repay their debts and without jobs they don't have any money to put into the economy through purchases.
    Imagine the chaos and unrest in the Boston area if 2/3's of the students had to go home.

  5. Interestingly enough (and to show you how much the French have been discussing the elections in their homes and how frustrated they have been with the candidates), on Monday, when my children went back to school in our corner of rural France, all the other children were discussing the results. Quote: 'If Sarkozy wins, he wants to kick all the foreigners out. If Hollande wins, he wants to pay people more for the jobs they do, but where will he get the money from? Thank goodness that blonde woman did not go any further.' Which is quite a good summary for 6 and 8 year olds. When we were living in the UK, I don't think most of the children in their classes knew (or cared) who the prime minister was.

  6. At the risk of incurring wrath, I have to object to the statement, "Islamophobia, many say, is the new anti-Semitism." I think it's specious to try to compare the damage done to Europe by Islamist radicals with the imaginary "damage" done by Jews that provoked and still provokes most anti-Semitism. The Jews were productive contributors to European civilization wherever they lived; Islamist radicals represent in fact the eighth century at its worst. I understand the larger implication, which is that being anti-Islam is a prejudice, but I do NOT think it's at all proper to call it "the new anti-Semitism."

  7. I respect your point, Tim. The comparison drawn is from the French press who liken Islamaphobia in the younger generation to AntiSemitism of the past. To me it's a misnomer because France has and continues to be AntiSemitic.
    Marina, that's encouraging to hear that even young children are discussing this in elementary school!

  8. I read an article in the New York Times magazine section last year in which Marine LePen said that the National Front was no longer focused on Jews, but on immigrants. She is spewing racism.

    Most Muslims are not "terrorists." They are people who want to work and raise families. It is really wrong to promote bigotry against Muslim communities, in general. Most Muslims are productive members of society, definitely so in the U.S.

    Why paint all Muslim family Muslims this way? It really is not fair and does promote prejudice. Anti-Muslim bigotry is what it is, bigotry. To paint an entire people, community or religion negatively is stereotyping.

    After all, the far-right, Le Pen and the National Front and all of their ilk in Europe, has in common anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim bigotry.

    That Norwegian ultra right-winger who murdered 77 people, mostly young, is racist to the core, anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant -- and I'm sure, anti-Semitic. He didn't ask people their ideologies. He saw them as being part of a multi-cultural Norway, which he violently opposes. He killed peaceful, and contributing members of society and aprt of the future, because they were children of immigrants or he saw them as promoting multi-culturalism. It's vile stuff.