No doubt about it: she is the virtual winner of the first round of the municipal elections in France. Marine Le Pen, empress of the extreme right of her country, is on a rise.
She became the leader of the movement in January 2011 and took advantage of the lack of confidence and trust of the French towards current PM François Hollande and the Socialists, currently in power, who many deemed as incapable of managing the tense economic situation.
The inability of the Union for a Popular Movement (UMP), the traditional Conservative Party and heir to the neo-Gaullist tradition, to act as a serious alternative force as it became increasingly internally divided, has also facilitated Le Pen’s popularity. Then there’s the ambiguous return to the scene of Nicolas Sarkozy, former PM, but he still has his legal problems and does not seem to benefit from an appeal for more time.
The right party collected 46.54% of the votes, 37.74% for the left, Le Pen’s far-right got 4.65% and 0.58% of the extreme left.
The results of the Front National (4.5%) are very high when you consider that the party appeared in only 597 municipalities over 36,000.
Meanwhile, as the economic crisis becomes more tense, so the unemployment rate increases. This is leading to growing social tension, which is one of the main reasons why we are witnessing the birth of anti-government and anti-system movements both by right and left parties.
These are the ingredients that are leading a country like France towards dangerous tendencies, populism and extremism are affecting Europe at a regional level (see the article by Ruben Rosenberg Colorni).
The progression of the National Front of Marine Le Pen is under everybody’s eyes and the difficulty of finding solutions to the growing problem of unemployment goes hand in hand with the growth of xenophobic and anti-immigrant policies– a paradoxical situation considering that it was in the “République” that integration became the workhorse.
But to understand the current situation it is necessary to take a step back. In France, as in Italy, we have witnessed, since the end of World War II, an abnormal growth known as the “thirty glorious years”. People have had to rebuild everything and at the same time there have been innovations in the military, logistics and transportation sectors. All of these innovations have increased the standard of living and well-being of the population. For years there has been a utopia of “full employment” and for this there has been a strong growth, above our real possibilities.
By improving the quality of life people have created a population more concerned about its personal well-being, more individualistic and less supportive.
What we are witnessing now comes from wrong choices that were made in those years and that we are currently paying for.
The dire economic situation of the moment and the increase in the unemployment rate has caused the resurgence of extremism and populism that are a danger to democracies all over the European continent. It is the economic crisis that feeds the reservoir of votes of the Front National.
We must address the issue of unemployment, as it would also tame the perils that these extreme-right parties are bringing with them.
But it a lot of uncertainty surrounds the parties that actually adhere to Nazi ideas. Often enough their political leaders know little or nothing of the Nazi ideology that they supposedly defend. The only thing they know is that there is nothing more outrageous than ideology. Some of them are even using symbols recalling that of the swastika – if you look at the symbol of the “Golden Dawn” Greek Party, you can see that it resembles a swastika.
The points on which the French movement is focusing on are: stigmatization of gypsies, while the Jews have been replaced by the Muslims as a scapegoat. According to the propaganda of the Front National, Muslims are responsible for everything; unemployment, insecurity, progression of terrorism, communalism, lack of housing, etc.
These movements cling to national identity. The strong immigration that has taken place in these countries has given the opportunity for parties to claim an alleged danger that has lead to a clash of civilizations, increased by the economic crisis. These ideologies have formed xenophobic tendencies in various countries. The choice of a similar logo amongst the various movements serves to unite them within an international circuit.
The populist parties are starting to be considered as the new specter haunting Europe, bringing with them the fear that is created and the powers that are in charge. These parties are the ones that are questioning globalization, financial markets, the single currency, immigration policies and the policies of austerity. According to various surveys, these parties are becoming more numerous, something that many people are getting worried about.