French shock at far-right Front National poll wins

By Shirli Sitbon, March 27, 2014
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National Front leader Marine Le Pen (Photo AP)

National Front leader Marine Le Pen (Photo AP)

Every recent survey has shown that a growing portion of the French population approves of the National Front’s ideas, mainly on immigration and Europe. And with every election, its results have improved.

Sunday’s municipal polls were no exception. The far-right party made a breakthrough, topping the polls in 19 towns, including Avignon, Perpignan, Fréjus, and gaining control of the town council in Hénin Beaumont, in northern France.

Jews reacted with shock. The Jewish student movement UEJF said: “The success in Hénin Beaumont shows the fight for equality and progress is losing ground.”

Previously, despite a victory in the city of Toulon, the National Front had performed poorly in municipal elections because it lacked candidates.

For this election, however, it fielded hundreds of candidates, with more than 300 of them qualifying for the second round of the voting later this month.

Broadening the far right’s electoral appeal has been Marine Le Pen’s main goal since she took over as party leader in 2011. She has launched what political analysts call her “de-demonisation” policy. This means no more jokes about World War II and the Holocaust, which her father and predecessor, Jean-Marie Le Pen, was fond of.

She has also tried to appear friendly towards the Jewish and gay communities, to brush off accusations of bigotry and antisemitism.

Jewish organisations say this is merely a façade, pointing to the fact that Le Pen demanded a ban on the wearing of kippot in public places 2012.

Leading communal group Crif points out a serious threat to the community in France comes from radical Muslims. Nonetheless, this election success will focus attention on the menace posed by the far-right.

Last updated: 11:45pm, March 27 2014