1) Marine Le Pen, the new Circe enchantress

by Giuseppe Terranova - 2012.01.27
1) Marine Le Pen, the new Circe enchantress
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Twelve months after Front National established its leadership and four months before next presidential election, Marine Le Pen may represent a real shift in the French political landscape. Not only for the wide and strong citizens' approval it obtained, confirmed by a recent TNS Sofres survey, but also because, within a year, Le Pen has been able to give a new aspect to the extreme right-wing party founded by her father in 1972. Actually, apart from the surname, it is difficult to find something in common between her and her predecessor. The reasons of such a radical change are quite simple. The charming leader of Front National knows that, in order to relaunch her party, it is necessary to re-depict its image and, in certain respects, she did it. Marine Le Pen is a divorced career woman; she is statist and anti-Nazi, she supports the anti-globalisation movement and defends gays and Jews.

These are the most important ingredients of the magic recipe through which she transformed, in a so short period of time, an old extreme right-wing party into a post-modern political movement, which is part of the newborn family of European neo-populism. Among the most remarkable members of such a family we find Geert Wilders who, with his Freedom Party, is crucial for the survival of Dutch government. We refer, in other words, to those parties developed in the richest and most liberal European countries, characterised by a strong  anti-Europeanism and anti-immigration attitude, which have been able to evolve, setting apart their traditional political positions. After abandoning the ideologies of the twentieth century, these parties now move freely and base only on pragmatism.  In this way, they can provide immediate and concrete responses to the real problems of an increasingly wider part of population.

Indeed, as emerges from a number of surveys, Front National potential voters are extremely heterogeneous, they are both young and adult and belong to different social classes: workers and civil servants living in big towns, people living in rural areas, people under 35, some activists for gay rights and even a reduced number of middle class exponents. These data, which one year ago were unthinkable, today depict Marine Le Pen as the possible winner of next election, an actual threat not only for Sarkozy, but also for the socialists headed by François Hollande and the extreme left-wing parties. Obviously, it remains to be seen whether the capitalisation of social unease may turn into government actions capable of respecting democratic rules or not. However, although over the last ten years history has proved that power moderates these parties, it is important to underline that the most innovative aspect of Le Pen's party is the method. Compared with other old European political families, indeed, Front National realised in advance that the only way to adapt to the extraordinary and rapid transformation of post-industrial society is to set apart any ideological burden.

Published in Citizenship.
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