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.
Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs