Shivers in France as Marine Le Pen gets poll boost

By Shirli Sitbon, October 16, 2013
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A by-election win and a favourable poll rating for France’s far-right party Front National (FN) have set alarm bells ringing in Paris but did not come as a surprise to French Jews.

A poll carried out last week suggested the FN could get 24 per cent of the vote in next May’s European Parliament election, beating former president Nicolas Sarkozy’s UMP and the Socialist Party.

After the by-election victory in Brignoles on Sunday, Jean-Marc Ayrault, the prime minister, blamed the FN’s win over centre-right UMP on its leaders, who “didn’t lift a finger to defend their candidate”.

Most French Jews say FN leader Marine Le Pen is an extremist, a racist and an antisemite who threatens France.

“This is so sad for our country,” said Nellu, a photographer.

“The Front National is a threat,” said James, “but I think its electoral wins are only due to low turnouts. In Sunday’s election for example, the turnout was extremely low. Otherwise the party wouldn’t have won.”

Others believe the FN will never get to power.

“They won a few local elections, so what? That’s nothing new! They’ll never govern the country. I don’t see that happening,” said Jean-Paul.

More and more Jews understand why the national far-right gets a rating of 24 per cent in opinion polls.

“The parties that have ruled the country are so disappointing. They’ve let everything go, the economy is collapsing,” said David. “Add to that the tension around minorities. There’s still a bit of racism and since there’s a growing number of multi-cultural populations, these feelings are exacerbated.”

For some, Ms Le Pen’s greatest success since she took over from her father in 2011 is that she has managed to reposition her party. The French say she “de-demonised” the FN, having repeatedly said she is not against Jews or Muslims.

It is difficult to know how many Jews agree, because openly supporting Ms Le Pen is totally unacceptable in the Jewish community.

Michel Thooris, a Jewish former FN candidate, said: “It’s good that she has progressed in opinion polls. People have finally realised that other parties like the UMP and PS are liars. The FN is better for everyone. It’s better than the parties in power. They’ve let too many immigrants into France and that is dangerous for Jews.”

Last updated: 12:45pm, October 17 2013