The victory of the French National Front at the Sunday’s elections – 28% of the votes – means that the National Front is no longer a joke party more concerned with spouting hatred.
It was during the presidential elections in 2002 that the French National Front became prominent. Despite reaching the run-off, French people chose to rally behind Jacques Chirac, who was then able to win the elections. Then, the National Front seemed to rest on arguments in favour of neo-fascism, racism and anti-Semitism, particularly favourite subjects of Jean-Marie Le Pen, the first president of the party and father of the current leader.
And then, the party started softening its image, although not its language. Rather than using arguments in which only a tiny minority identified with, the party activated the fears of the French people by accentuating its stance on anti-immigration, islamophobia and anti-globalisation. And with a stagnant economy, youth unemployment that kept growing as well as the last two terror attacks on France, the National Front was able to acquire the kind of voters that it could not have dreamed of attracting during Jean-Marie Le Pen’s years. And it also made headways on the political field, obtaining 1500 councillors and two deputies in the National Assembly at the last elections.
For François Beaudonnet, a France 2 journalist, the victory of Marine Le Pen’s party is a wake-up call to the French political elite. According to him, “it is a way of showing that they [the French] do not agree with the general evolution of Europe today.” However, any talk that this victory will herald Ms. Le Pen occupying le Quai d’Orsay, the presidential residence in 2017 is far-fetched. “We are not there yet,” he says but adds a cautionary note that things could be “different in a few years if the French political situation keeps deteriorating.”
It is indeed the deterioration of the French political and economic life that brought the National Front in the mainstream, so much so that for a party reputed to be a racist party, Africans can be found in it, campaigning for Ms. Le Pen to be elected president. One of her most prominent supporters, Rosine Nahounou, explains her support by affirming that she has “the same goals and the same vision as Marine Le Pen.”
“Neither the Left nor the Right have done anything for Africans here, but go on her website [Marine Le Pen’s website] and you will see that she is for the sovereignty of nations and the autonomy of people, especially that of the Africans.”
Indeed during her campaigns, Ms. Le Pen called for immigration, both legal and illegal, to be stopped.
Currently, 14 of France’s ex colonies in Africa are forced to pay colonial tax as part of a colonial pact signed in order for these colonies to obtain their independence. As part of the deal, these countries pay about 500 billion dollars to France every year, along with other perks such as first refusal on raw materials.
In a video posted on her site, Ms. Le Pen mentioned that the imposition of the CFA Franc on France’s ex colonies was a tragedy for the economies of those countries. However, it is one thing to bemoan something and quite another altogether to repair injustice, especially where that injustice might benefit you.
Ms. Le Pen might revel in her victory all this week and probably dream of being the new resident of the Quai d’Orsay in 2017, but she might just realise that neither Muslims nor immigrants are France’s problems. And she may well realise that the countries of those whom she seeks to deport by all means are the ones making La Grande France live.