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.
    'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenyai
    X
    February 08, 2016 4:30 PM
    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video Sanders, Clinton Battle for Young Democratic Vote

    Despite a narrow loss to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in last week's Iowa Democratic caucuses, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders secured more than 80 percent of the vote among those between the ages of 18 and 29. VOA correspondent Aru Pande talks to Democrats in New Hampshire about who they are leaning towards and why in this week's primary.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.