The National Front by Daniel Dilworth Dec24


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The National Front by Daniel Dilworth


The past couple of years have seen meteoric rises of the political extremes; we have seen the likes of Syriza (the Greek socialists) ascend to power under Tsipras and more recently a bloc of leftists in Portugal. Simultaneously, the far-right has also gained popularity: many cite the examples of Golden Dawn in Greece, Geert Wilders in the Netherlands, and Nigel Farage’s UKIP in the UK. And amongst these is one of the original “far-right” and “bigoted” and “racist” of all European parties: the infamous Front National in France.
The Front National (FN) was founded by Jean-Marie Le Pen in the early 1970s as just another small political party. Influenced by the nationalist Action Française, FN gradually moved to its extremest incarnation. Immigration and racism soon became entwined in party doctrine, FN espoused a France where immigrants from North Africa were to be returned to their native lands and immigration from such areas ended. 
For many years, FN remained a minor party, seldom troubling the more mainstream parties in France. Le Pen cut a divisive figure, one who could never realistically ascend to the French presidency, a position he coveted.  In 2011, he stood aside and was replaced at the top by his daughter, Marine. Le Pen Senior remained in the shadows witnessing his daughter change the party’s xenophobic image to a much more republican one whereby the traditional secular values were to be defended first and foremost; the previous racism which had been associated with FN was shed. It hung on, and still does.
Earlier this year, Marine Le Pen was involved in a spat with her father over his alleged remarks that the Holocaust was a “detail” of World War Two. Marine wanted a retraction but Jean-Marie refused. In the end daughter had to suspend father. A court overruled this suspension but Jean-Marie’s honorary presidency of FN was revoked.
Which brings me onto the French regional elections which were held over the past couple of weeks. On the 13th of December, a second round of voting took place – for regions where no candidate was elected in the previous week’s first round. In a bid to keep FN from gaining power, the Socialists withdrew their candidates from certain regions’ second round of voting such as in the regions of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur and Nord-Pas-de-Calais-Picardie, with the view that those who would’ve voted for them, would now vote for Sarkozy’s The Republicans (formerly UMP). This tactic worked: FN were kept from attaining power. 
So Marine Le Pen lost the election but what does this mean for the party? On the face of it, the FN have lost ground to their rivals and are possibly sidelined. Le Pen, however, is an astute politician; the idea of the Republicans being supported by the Socialists in an election could potentially play right into her hands. It shows to many that the two behemoths of French politics are in cahoots to keep FN and Le Pen from power. With the French presidential election due in 2017, Le Pen can turn such a strategy on its head and who knows, she may even come up trumps when the race to the Camps-Elysee concludes.