Front National: National Preference.
France’s far-right National Front (FN) party rode a wave of fear over immigration and terrorism to storm to a commanding position in the first round of voting in the country’s high-stakes regional elections on Sunday.
The anti-immigration party led by Marine Le Pen scored around 28 percent of the vote nationally and topped the list in at least six of 13 regions, according to final estimates from the interior ministry.
The FN came ahead of both former president Nicolas Sarkozy’s Les Républicains (formerly the UMP), which earned 27 percent, and President François Hollande’s Socialists, with 23.5 percent, official estimates showed.
Le Pen and her 25-year-old niece Marion Marechal-Le Pen broke the symbolic 40 percent mark in their respective regions, shattering previous records for the party as they tapped into voter anger over a stagnant economy and security fears.
The polls were held under tight security in the first national vote since Islamic State group terrorists killed 130 people in a wave of attacks across Paris on November 13.
Despite its commanding position, the FN now faces a tougher battle in a second round of voting next Sunday after the Socialists announced they were withdrawing candidates in three regions in a bid to block the far right from power.
Progression of Front National.
Le Monde states that the Front National (FN) totaled 6 million votes in the first round.
The real importance of this result gives Marine Le Pen’s party a chance to normalise and streamline its presence,
The Financial Times cites this,
James Shields, professor of French politics at Aston University said: “These results are a shock but they shouldn’t be a surprise.
“What Marine Le Pen wants above all is a chance to show that her party can govern more than a medium-sized town. For that, a region with several million inhabitants offers a perfect testing-ground, giving her party time to deliver some results before the presidential and legislative elections of 2017.”
The Front National has talked of the “suicide collectif du PS” – the group suicide of the Socialist Party.
The far-right won in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais-Picardie, one of the birthplaces of the French labour movement, and the socialist and Communist left. Over the last few months there have been many reports on growth of the FN the area, including a whole series on the radio station France-Culture. As the political scientist Jean-Yves Camus states, “C’est une région à forte tradition ouvrière, victime de désindustrialisation, de délocalisations, de chômage de masse et de fermetures d’entreprises,” It’s a region with a strong working class tradition, the victim of de-industrialisation, the delocalisation of companies, mass unemployment and business closures.”
Languedoc-Roussillon Midi-Pyrénées was another region affected: the birthplace (Castres) of Jean Jaurès (1849 – 1914) the leader of twentieth century French socialism. It was where he received his first Parliamentary mandate, backed by the miners of Carmaux. Jaurès was assassinated in 1914 by a sympathiser of the extreme right, precursors of the Front National.
There is little doubt that spreading anxiety about Islam played a part in the elections. But the FN’s breakthrough cannot be simply attributed to fear in the wake of the Paris murders and Marine Le Pen’s leadership’s (not to mention their activists) attempts to spread hatred against Muslims.
Its strategy has been to campaign and stir up hatred against all foreigners, beginning with those running the European Union (EU). The message, given very clearly in the poster above, is that outsiders are out to get the French, take their jobs, their homes and undermine their living standards.
The party demands that France leaves the Euro, and that “priorité nationale”(or La préférence national) be given to French nationals in employment. Jobs will be given to those with French nationality in preference to anybody else (Les entreprises se verront inciter à prioriser l’emploi, à compétences égales, des personnes ayant la nationalité française). This also means – in terms very close to those proposed by the David Cameron’s government, that social benefits, from housing onwards, are taken away from migrant workers and immigrants. It demands an end to “massive immigration” and free movement in Europe. The FN denounces immigration as “une arme au service du grand capital” (a weapon of Big Business), an apparently ‘anti-capitalist’ position They propose to limit legal immigration 10,000 a year. Being born in France will no longer mean automatically acquiring French nationality.
If the FN claim to support ” laïcité” and to support “assimilation” of different cultures into France this is on the basis of the «racines chrétiennes de la France», Christian roots of France (sometimes «judéo-chrétiennes») – at odds with the universalism of humanist values which have no such unique roots.
The Front National has also worked UKIP and British tabloid territory in spreading scare stories about benefits and housing for migrants and refugees. They even include the principle that demonstrations in favour of illegal migrants are forbidden. and that anti-French racism is recognised as an aggravating factor in criminal offences (1)
The measures the FN propose imply a disengagement from the EU and a return to full national sovereignty. In some respects the FN’s ideas have an echo across a wide spectrum of political currents, including a section of the left. The FN does not simply attack the EU and the effects of globalisation. They stand for ‘sovereignty’, restoring what they claim should be the full power of the ‘nation’. This, known in France as “souverainisme” (soveriegntism) is embraced equally vociferously in the United Kingdom by those urging leaving the EU. Like the British Conservatives they are also hostile to the European Convention on Human Rights.
For the FN this is wider than a political demand. It is tied to a wider programme of economic protectionism. These economics are more widely shared than in the UK. Emmanuel Todd – known in the English-speaking world for his scorn against the Je Suis Charlie movement – is a long standing supporter of “intelligent protectionism”. He, like the FN, is anti-Euro and goes so far to find inspiration in the German nationalist protectionist Frederich List.
Many of the FN’s national policies may be classed as pure demagogy. For their working class and “popular” electorate the FN propose to raise the minimum wage, benefits, notably pensions, (for French citizens), and put controls on the price of gas, electricity, transport and petrol. (Le Front national, cette imposture. le Monde. 4.12.15.)
The governing Parti Socialiste has been unable to offer much in the way of making life better for those out of work in regions like Nord-Pas-de-Calais-Picardie – the national unemployment rate stands at a stubborn 10,2%. In this northern area unemployment amongst the young is at 31,8 %.
These economic issues, rather than identity or religion, are also at the heart of the failure of the Parti socialiste to continue to win overwhelming support from those of a Muslim background. Le Monde (4.12.15.) reports that it is not opposition to gay marriage or to teaching gender equality in schools – issues on which a number of organised Islamic groups made common cause with the conservative Christian right – which has affected their voting behaviour. It is the inability of President Hollande, and his Prime Minister Manuel Valls to improve their living conditions which has struck home.
The complicated alliance of the Socialists’ left opponents in the left-wing Greens (EELV) and the Front de gauche make it hard to decipher their national score of 10 to 11 % (sometimes aligned together, sometimes not), although it is clear that the Green vote has almost halved (l’Humanité). To to predict where and if there will be agreements with the PS is equally hard.
On the far-left the results are negligible. The Nouveau Parti anticapitaliste (NPA) was too weak to present its own lists and backed Lutte ouvrière who obtained 320 054 votes nationally (1,5 %)
The Socialists meanwhile are discussing – and arguing about – possible agreements with other forces for the second round.
Sarkozy’s Les Républicains (LR) have just announced that they will refuse to enter into any alliances with the other parties.
The French political class – and all those dependent on the decisions and funding of the French Regions – will soon have to face up to the Front National with its hands on some levers of power.
Indications that initial flash points will concern exactly the allocation of the regional funds.
Left reaction: Communiqué de Ensemble! Contre le Front national et la droite, il faut un sursaut à gauche !
Political scientists’ analysis: «Le FN réussit à incarner le vote utile contre la gauche»
Le vote Front national devient « un vote de plus en plus national » et « inter-classiste ». C’est ce qu’estiment cinq chercheurs de l’Observatoire des radicalités politiques (ORAP) de la fondation Jean Jaurès. Dans une analyse fine des résultats, ils mettent en évidence « l’hégémonie culturelle » de l’extrême droite, l’échec de la « stratégie Buisson » de la droite et l’aveuglement de la gauche.
Their voters are more and more national (and not locally based), and cross-class. They decsibre the “cultural hegemony” of the far-right and failure of the right (LR, Sarkozy) to capture their electorate by their own nationalist rhetoric and cultural conservatism (Buisson, one of his main advisers), and the blindness of the left.
You can read this (downloaded paper) for free: Le « nouveau » Front national en question. Alexandre Dézé April 2015.
(1) Front National programme: Immigration Stopper l’immigration, renforcer l’identité française: “Les manifestations de clandestins ou de soutien aux clandestins seront interdites.
– Le racisme anti-Français comme motivation d’un crime ou d’un délit sera considéré comme une circonstance particulièrement aggravante et alourdira la peine encourue.”