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.
    Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shababi
    X
    Henry Ridgwell
    April 28, 2016 4:20 PM
    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Town Receives Refugees but Lacks Resources

    A wave of refugees is pouring into the Kurdish town of Afrin in northern Syria as a result of fighting between rebel forces and Islamic State militants. VOA’s Amina Misto went to the town and reports local authorities are finding it difficult to cope with this influx of internally displaced people. Bronwyn Benito narrates her report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Build Human Tissue on Animal Matrix

    The question has always been, if a gecko can grow back its tail, why can't we regenerate our lost body parts? Well, maybe we can, someday. Scientists are moving towards the ability to rebuild fully functioning organs, and have made significant progress replacing muscles and other tissue.
    Video

    Video Containing Chernobyl Radiation Continues 30 Years After Explosion

    April 26 marks the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Hundreds were killed following the explosion and it's estimated that thousands more have died from cancers caused by the radiation. Henry Ridgwell traveled to Chernobyl and reports for VOA on the continuing efforts to decommission the site -- and on the fledgling plans for a new future in the vast exclusion zone.
    Video

    Video Frustration Builds Among Refugees Trapped at Macedonian Border

    On the Greek border with Macedonia, 12,000 refugees continue to wait. Since the route to the rest of Europe was closed last month, the makeshift camp at Idomeni has seen protests and tear gas. But while those here wait, their frustration grows — as do reports of people attempting to find new ways of continuing their journey. John Owens reports from Idomeni.
    Video

    Video Researchers: Bees Help Kenyan Farmers Fend Off Elephants

    Elephant crop-raiding continues to be a major source of human-wildlife conflict in Kenya, so one elephant researcher is helping to alleviate the problem near Tsavo East National Park with beehive fences, which use elephants’ natural aversion to bees to deter them from farms. VOA’s Jill Craig visited the area ahead of this month's Giants Club Summit, which will bring together dignitaries at Mount Kenya to find solutions to combat poaching, the No. 1 threat to elephants.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora