2) Le Pen phenomenon

by Giuseppe Terranova - 2012.01.31
2) Le Pen phenomenon
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Two months before France's presidential election, Front National continues to rise in the polls, registering its best historical result. It is an unexpected success, especially if we consider that it was only one year ago that Jean-Marie Le Pen, the founder and undisputed leader of the party, retired from political life allowing his daughter Marine to take his place at the head of the extreme right-wing movement. This is what we discuss with Jean Yves Camus, research associate at the Institute for International and Strategic Relations (IRIS) in Paris. Camus also collaborates with “Le Monde Diplomatique”, “Charlie Hebdo”, “Proche Orient”, “Rue89” and is one of the best political analysts of what, thanks to a extraordinarily well-chosen expression, is broadly defined as “populisme alpin”.

1) According to a recent survey carried out by TNS Sofres, 31% of the French support the ideas of Front National, against 22% registered one year ago. What reasons lie behind this change?

This is certainly the result of the change at the head of the FN; Marine Le Pen is more in tune with the working and lower middle-class than her father is, simply because she is looking like the average French working woman and she has changed the party’s course and social and economic issues from free-market policies to asking for State intervention on welfare, national market protection and even policy planning.

2) The survey shows that the party headed by Marine Le Pen attracts voters among people younger than 35 years old. Is it possible, therefore, to say that Front National is becoming increasingly popular among educated youths and middle class people living in big towns?

No, because the educational level serves as a barrier against the FN vote. 28% of those aged 18 to 24 intend to vote for her, but that proportion drops to 13% among those who have at least 2 years in a general or technical university. So the threshold is not class-belonging but education. Furthermore the FN vote is no more restricted to big cities. The real issue is that the uneducated youth are those who are hit the hardest by the unemployment crisis and that they might consider voting for FN because this party scapegoats immigrants for all the trouble they have in getting a job.

3) In the past, Front National achieved important election successes. In 2002, indeed, Jean-Marie Le Pen, lost in the second round to Jacques Chirac. On that occasion, voters did not think the Party could properly run the country, but it is evident that things have changed. Today 31% of respondents consider FN an actual government party. In the light of these results, and in view of the difficult moment experienced by socialists, do you believe that Marine Le Pen may realistically win next presidential election?

There’s no way she can win and she knows that. We are heading towards a Left-Right confrontation on the second ballot, with a remote possibility that she can fill the 5 points gap between Sarkozy and herself, and thus be on the second ballot. She is seen as competent on identity, immigration or law and order issues, but she is lacking credibility when it comes to reducing the debt of the State and coping with the economy. Francois Hollande is still leading and the Socialist Party is united behind him, something Ségolène Royal was not able to achieve in 2007.

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