News

    French Far-Right Political Movement Struggles for Survival

    Multimedia

    Audio
    Lisa Bryant

    French political parties are hosting a series of meetings, in the coming weeks, to mark the new political season.  That includes the National Front Party - the most popular far-right movement of any major European Union nation.  Six years ago, the anti-immigration party shocked the nation when its leader placed second in presidential elections.  But, as Lisa Bryant reports from Paris, if the party is down, it is not out of the French political landscape.

    These should be good times for the National Front party.  Conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy is struggling in the polls, the economy is stumbling and illegal immigration - a key campaign theme for the far-right French party which wants to end immigration altogether - also worries many French.

    Instead, the National Front is split internally and struggling to survive.  It received slightly more than 10 percent of the vote in last year's presidential elections - one of its poorest showings in recent years.  In this year's regional elections, it failed to capture a single seat.

    Nonna Meyer, a political sociology analyst at Paris-based research center CEVIPOV, says the Front's octogenarian leader, Jean-Marie Le Pen, seems like a has-been.

    "There is not so much opportunity, at the present time, for Jean-Marie Le Pen - even though ideally the context is for him because there is discontent, dissatisfaction with the economic situation," said Meyer.   

    The party is also about $13 million in debt from paying off campaign expenses of its candidates.  It has slashed its staff and put Le Pen's bullet-proof car and the party headquarters up for sale. This month, it found a buyer for the building, located in the affluent Paris suburb of Saint Cloud - a Chinese university which is reported to be paying up to $22 million.

    During an interview at his family home, Le Pen refused to admit defeat - or retirement any time soon.   

    Mr. Le Pen says politics is like sports - there are ups and downs for all parties.  And, he points to low periods for France's Socialist and Communist parties.  He says his National Front party is the only one representing true French nationalism.

    At 80 years old, Mr. Le Pen is the oldest party leader in France.  His political life has surpassed many of his competitors.  He is still vigorous and combative, but somewhat mellower than in the past.  One far-right rival, Bruno Megret, who split from Le Pen a few years ago, criticized him this year as being too politically correct.

    But Mr. Le Pen has not softened when it comes to many of his favorite themes - like cracking down on immigration and crime.  And, criticizing French President Nicolas Sarkozy.  He says Mr. Sarkozy is a disappointment who has failed to keep his promises.  He accuses the president of being too European and of deceiving his electorate.

    Mr. Le Pen was re-elected as his party's leader last November - and he does not appear to be contemplating retirement any time soon.  The Front is divided over who will succeed him - either his long-time deputy and fellow hard-liner Bruno Megret or Le Pen's youngest daughter, Marine, who has injected a note of youth and softness to the party.

    "The problems is he's getting old - their leader Jean-Marie Le Pen.  And, the party is completely divided on his succession - will it be his daughter, Marine Le Pen, who has appeal of the media?  But the old party members contest her leadership, so that's a real problem - what's going to happen there.  And, also for quite a while the party has been dwindling down to nothing.  And, there is a moment when you cannot win elections when there is no staff behind you, when the activists are gone," said analyst Nonna Meyer.

    The National Front has faced hard times before.  It split in the late 1990s.  Le Pen himself has stirred anger in France for controversial remarks - like calling the Holocaust a "detail" in World War II, 20 years ago.  He got heavily fined for that remark.  He sparked new furor this year by repeating it. Critics also say he is racist - which he denies. 

    Across Europe, far-right parties have mixed support.  They maintain a presence in countries like Switzerland, the Netherlands and Austria.  Recent polls show the far right Sweden Democrats will earn the four percent of votes needed to enter the Swedish parliament in the next elections, in 2010.

    In France, Le Pen believes his party's values - of family and patriotism - will always resonate.

    But Meyer believes French are looking elsewhere. They may be disenchanted with the government - but that may be translated into rejecting politics altogether - or being attracted by the rising young star of the far left, Olivier Besancenot.
     

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora