Wednesday, 23 November 2016

FRANCE: Marine Le Pen's surge

The French political landscape is heading for some dramatic changes as former Prime Ministers Alain Juppé and Francois Fillon are heading for the second round of the ''Republican'' primaries following a national vote. Meanwhile, polls in the build up to the primaries showed ''National Front''. (FN) leader Marine Le Pen ahead in the first round of next year's vote.

Today France political climate is rife with violence rooted in nationalist agendas and exploitation rooted in international ones. People's sense of belonging in France has begun to detach itself from the established parties ( Republicans and Socialists) that have been governing them, and instead they have gravitated towards nationalism and populism, offered by Marine Le Pen.

Marine Le Pen claims to be fighting against ''those at the stop''. The approach is successful because the Paris elite is indeed aloof. Up until now, the established parties preferred to simply ignore the Front National. But that is no longer an option. This increases Marine Le Pen's popularity even further.The ''Republican'' and the ''Socialist Party'' have now officially declared war on Marine Le Pen and dubbed her their most important opponent for the presidential election. This would never have happened in the past.

Marine Le Pen is in very strong position to win France's presidential election next year, because French are rejecting the old parties associated with the old policies. French no longer care how extreme Le Pen's views are. In fact, many French do now adhere to Le Pen's views on the economy, immigration, the declining living standard and the lack of real job creation.

There are three major strands in mass attitudes which predispose French to vote for the radical right or '' Front National'': nativism – that is, a belief that holds that only indigenous inhabitants should have full civic and social rights – authoritarianism, and populism which counter-poses the ordinary people against the ‘elite’, the political class, the liberal intelligentsia. This, combined, constitutes what the cultural theorist Stuart Hall called ‘authoritarian populism.’

According to the theory of ''Pathological normalcy'', authoritarian populism, far from being confined to the margins, is deeply embedded within the mainstream. Two factors, one can argue, have propelled it into the forefront of political consciousness. The first is the rising salience, and emotional voltage of anti-immigrant feeling, that is to say mounting antipathy, resentment and apprehension towards those – whether they be recent immigrants, asylum-seekers or established ethnic minorities – who constitute ‘the other’.

The second is, of course, the impact of the financial crash and the economic recession. The effect of this has not been a tilt to the left. Left-wing diagnoses, at least in France, have had little purchase: there is only a muted sense that the gyrations of the financial system are in any way responsible for what went wrong. Most people, one suspects, are left baffled by talk of sub-prime mortgages, derivatives and credit default swaps. They are looking for something more tangible to blame: if not Francois Hollande then welfare recipients and, of course, immigrants.

The implication of all this is disturbing for the ''Republican'' and the ''Socialist Party''. Research for some while has indicated that authoritarian populism in France appeals in particular to the more poorly-educated, to manual workers and to routine clerical workers: the natural constituency of the those two main parties. What we are witnessing is, in a sense, a reconstitution of a form of class politics.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
Political Analyst/Writer
Author/International Affairs Expert

Photo Credit: Getty-Images of Madam: Marine Le Pen