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The Implications of Le Pen's Electoral Strategy in France

by Starvid Thu Dec 14th, 2006 at 12:35:42 PM EST

To be sure, Nicolas Sarkozy and Ségolène Royal remain the most likely winners of the presidential election's first round on April 22, 2007. However, Jean-Marie Le Pen's chances to cause a new surprise after his 2002 stunning success are now higher than originally thought.

The two months before the polls will be decisive. Le Pen's attempts to win the sympathy of those still undecided will likely cause him to use all of his tactical ability -- both through the media and in a more direct relationship with potential voters.

Although the establishment continues to scorn the National Front and its national-populist culture, the Socialists may be secretly happy that a strong Le Pen could prove capable of absorbing Sarkozy's political space on the right.

Report Drafted By:
Dr. Federico Bordonaro


From the Power and Interest News Report.


French and European media reports in early December show that France's National Front (F.N.) leader Jean-Marie Le Pen could receive 15 percent of votes in France's presidential elections in the spring of 2007. In 2002, when Le Pen surprisingly proved that he was able to survive past the first round and challenged incumbent President Jacques Chirac, pre-electoral surveys credited Le Pen with around 12 percent of the votes. Analysts estimate that many French citizens prefer to hide their preference for the far right, hence pre-electoral surveys usually indicate a lower-than-actual strength of the National Front. As a consequence, French and global political commentators expect Le Pen to perform strongly again next April, even though this time the gap between the survey's statistics and real vote intentions may be smaller.

Le Pen's New Strategy: Nation, Assimilation, and the Immigration Issue

Confronted with two popular rivals -- the Union for a Popular Movement's (U.M.P.) new star Nicolas Sarkozy (a rather pro-Atlanticist, pro-U.S. Gaullist who pushes for a stricter immigration policy) and the new Socialist leader Ségolène Royal -- Le Pen is calculating that his best chances to succeed reside in his capability to represent the "real" modern right-wing by mixing conservative and nationalist sentiments with economic dynamism and a non-elitist approach to voters.

If he survives past the first round again, he will probably damage Sarkozy's moderate right more than Royal's left-wing coalition. Therefore, he would then challenge the Socialists and not the Gaullists as he did in 2002. For this reason, Le Pen is trying to reposition himself in order to be best equipped for a possible match against Royal in the second and more decisive round.

[...]

Hence, Le Pen is trying to alter his political-cultural identity in order to represent a modern right-wing party. One of the last political leaflets produced by the F.N. shows a young woman of North African descent who accuses the traditional parties (the P.S. and the U.M.P. in particular) of ruining the French republic, the nation, its values and its assimilation capabilities toward immigrants.

Le Pen knows that if he really wants to win the elections, he will need to get the support of at least some of the many millions of French citizens who are of African and Asian descent.

He will also need to make concessions to non-ethnic French while at the same time insisting on a new immigration policy aimed at limiting new entries, coupled by attempt to relaunch a straight assimilation policy designed to create "new French" from the myriad of alien cultural identities that mark France's present social landscape.

While Le Pen's ability to convince large sectors of French society of his non-racist, non-xenophobic vision remains to be tested, it is certain that Royal and Sarkozy will have to cope with the F.N.'s astute electoral strategy. Moreover, Sarkozy is probably the player to suffer most from Le Pen's tactical shifts.

[...]

Conclusion

To be sure, Nicolas Sarkozy and Ségolène Royal remain the most likely winners of the presidential election's first round on April 22, 2007. However, Jean-Marie Le Pen's chances to cause a new surprise after his 2002 stunning success are now higher than originally thought.

The two months before the polls will be decisive. Le Pen's attempts to win the sympathy of those still undecided will likely cause him to use all of his tactical ability -- both through the media and in a more direct relationship with potential voters.

Although the establishment continues to scorn the National Front and its national-populist culture, the Socialists may be secretly happy that a strong Le Pen could prove capable of absorbing Sarkozy's political space on the right.

Report Drafted By:
Dr. Federico Bordonaro

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Saw a thing on télématin this AM getting ready for work, think it was what's-his-name doing the revue de presse bit. A Sofres poll had FN ideals as garnering the explicit support now of 26% of French people, just heard it in passing, don't know the journal source and can't find it on the web anyhow. Something about daughter Marine's strategy to mainstream the party by playing down the inflammatory rhetoric all the while persistently and calmly advancing the same policies paying dividends.

Throw MAM (potentially) into the mix and we may we a Royal/Le Pen 2nd round.

And if that happens, I can pretty much guarantee it won't be 82-18.

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Thu Dec 14th, 2006 at 05:07:16 PM EST
If Le Pen is moving to the left, won't Sarkozy be able to pick off some votes from his right? Is Sarkozy not already doing so with his tough on immigration stance, his atlanticism and his entrepreneurialism?

On the second bit, do you think the UMP won't throw its support behind Royal?

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Thu Dec 14th, 2006 at 05:49:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
(Gulp) does that mean that one is far-rightist if one is for close ties to the US?

"I said, 'Wait a minute, Chester, You know I'm a peaceful man...'" Robbie Robertson
by NearlyNormal on Thu Dec 14th, 2006 at 07:13:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There is a debate diary in there somewhere...

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Dec 15th, 2006 at 06:47:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sarkozy isn't about to move to Le Pen's right, as it would pretty much require some anti-Arab pogrom by some UMP members to get him the kind of racist right wing cred the Front National enjoys.

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Fri Dec 15th, 2006 at 06:39:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It was on the front page of Le Monde yesterday.

http://www.lemonde.fr/web/article/0,1-0@2-823448,36-845588@51-823442,0.html

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Dec 15th, 2006 at 09:25:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks.

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill
by r------ on Fri Dec 15th, 2006 at 11:28:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I hate to confess my ignorance, but what does the term "far right" mean in terms of French/European politics?  Is it primarily economic, cultural, nativist, or some combination?  Here if one is called a wing-nut, which would seem to be the equivalent, you would expect that person to be anti-union, anti-abortion, anti-environmental(ist), probably, but not necessarily, racist, pro-military force, and willing to support an interventionistic foreign policy generally.  Is this roughly the same as your far right.

It doesn't seem so, but I don't really know.

"I said, 'Wait a minute, Chester, You know I'm a peaceful man...'" Robbie Robertson

by NearlyNormal on Thu Dec 14th, 2006 at 07:11:35 PM EST
Generally (as I try to generalise for Europe) speaking, to get the "far-right" label you have to use at least a couple of outright racial or religious stereotypes coupled with a more or less outspoken policy of getting the furreigners out. They are also dreaming for good old days and cares about the symbols of the nation, whatever they are (the military is generally in there).

On economic policy they can be anywhere, this includes unions. Abortion is not an issue in Sweden, so I let others answer that. Environmentalistism I do not think is an defining issue for our "far-righters". They can be any where from "traditional rights of polluting the river" to "love of nature is a defining caractheristica of our glorious people".

So I guess racism is the defining trait. Think of them as carrying the legacy of Hitler and Mussolini (the historical persons, not the Hollywood myths) if you like. We even had a neonazi party in the last election here in Sweden. They claimed that Hitler was misunderstood. That is about as far-right as it gets.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Thu Dec 14th, 2006 at 08:04:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I thought something like that might be the case.  I had often heard people (can't think of any examples right now) described as far-right when their economic or environmental policies seemed fairly progressive.  I generally hear of the rightists being for the volk.

For us I'm of the opinion it is more of an economic thing.  I think a lot of rightists would be tolerant of anyone who could make them a $.  Might not invite them home of let them marry the daughter, but don't really mind them in the country in their place.

Thanks

"I said, 'Wait a minute, Chester, You know I'm a peaceful man...'" Robbie Robertson

by NearlyNormal on Thu Dec 14th, 2006 at 09:11:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I hate to confess my ignorance, but what does the term "far right" mean in terms of French/European politics?  Is it primarily economic, cultural, nativist, or some combination?

In France my impression of Le Pen is that it's primarily been anti-foreigner, anti-non white, primarily Arabs, but also blacks and Jews. He is also very anti-EU.  The other big source of his appeal is that he is not part of the political establishment. His economic views from what I've seen have tended to be pretty right wing but not mentioned a lot.  

In Poland it's a mix of fundy Catholicism and the old thirties fascist tradition - so ultra nationalist and quite racist. That means left wing on econ, very left wing on foreign policy, but for quite different reasons (this is the rare case where the charge that hostility to US and Israeli policies is motivated by anti-semitism happens to be true, same goes for the extreme right in Germany) and very anti EU.

 

by MarekNYC on Fri Dec 15th, 2006 at 01:54:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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