News

France's Far Right Gets Boost From Ethnic Unrest

More than two weeks of violence in France has sparked soul searching about whether the country treats its ethnic immigrants fairly. But the violence has also sharpened simmering anti-immigration sentiments among some French. Such feelings are being stoked by France's far right, which is enjoying a new surge of attention.

Several hundred people gathered on a chilly Monday night for a boisterous rally across from the Louvre Museum in Paris. The rally was organized by the far right National Front party, whose 77-year-old leader Jean-Marie Le Pen showed he could still motivate a crowd.

For years, Mr. Le Pen bellowed, the National Front has been repeating its warning against massive immigration from outside Europe and the fact that it will ruin France and bring misery to the immigrants themselves.

Mr. Le Pen and his National Front party have been repeating this anti-immigration, law-and-order message for years. But it is now making new waves, after two weeks of rioting and arson attacks across France which have been blamed on ethnic immigrant youths.

"This kind of violence among immigrants naturally fits into the theses of Jean-Marie Le Pen," said Steven Ekovich, a French politics professor at the American University of Paris. "And he is indeed trying to profit from it. And we've already begun to see this recently. He's going to try to profit from this and try to rebuild his political fortunes based on a fear of a violence coming from the suburbs. Not only from the immigrants but also the children and grandchildren of immigrants.

Mr. Le Pen's National Front reports some 3,000-4,000 people have joined the party since unrest began in France in late October. It's unclear whether those figures are correct. But a number of those who attended the Paris rally said they shared Mr. Le Pen's opposition to immigration. That includes one 71-year-old retiree who gave only his first name, Robert.

Robert said the French government has allowed too many immigrants to enter France over the years. Now, he said, France feels invaded.

Nearby, 45-year-old Remy Carillon agrees. He lives in the suburbs of Paris, where the violence first broke out two weeks ago after the accidental electrocution of two youths of African origin.

"The recent wave of violence is just the last straw for many French", Mr. Carillon says. "The bigger problem is that French never wanted immigrants to come here in the first place. But the government never consulted them. If they had been asked, French and other Europeans would have said no to immigration years ago."

The National Front wants a zero immigration policy and to expel all illegal immigrants living in France. And more recently, Mr. Le Pen has been suggesting that some ethnic immigrants - those who were born in France and entitled to French citizenship - should also be deported, if they refuse to obey French laws. Citizenship, Mr. Le Pen argues, is not just a piece of paper. It must be earned.

Many French disagree with Mr. Le Pen's arguments. The far-right leader nonetheless shocked the nation in 2002, by placing second in presidential elections, with 18 percent of the vote.

Mr. Le Pen says he will run for president again in 2007 - when he will be nearly 79 years old. Despite his age, many of his supporters hope he'll finally win the elections.

And while Mr. Le Pen's anti-immigration stance remains controversial, his law-and-order platform does appear to be resounding in many parts of France. A poll published last week showed that nearly three-quarters of French supported the government's declaration of a state of emergency to reestablish order. And more than eight out of 10 French said they were scandalized by the riots.

But Nonna Mayer, an expert on far-right voters at the Center for Study of French Political Life in Paris, says those sentiments won't necessarily translate into political success for Mr. Le Pen.

"The situation is difficult," said Nonna Mayer. "Jean-Marie Le Pen says people are coming to his party at the moment. But he has two problems. First, the elections aren't tomorrow and many things may happen, and people may have forgotten about the riots by the time we get to the presidential elections of 2007."

Mr. Le Pen's party is also deeply divided between an old guard and a new one led by his daughter. And, Ms. Mayer notes, Mr. Le Pen has competition.

Another rightist politician, Philippe de Villiers, is echoing his anti-immigration stance. Mr. de Villiers embodies a less radical right than Mr. Le Pen.

Even France's popular Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy has been accused of hardening his law-and-order rhetoric to attract National Front supporters. Mr. Sarkozy is reportedly eyeing a presidential bid as well.

Mr. Le Pen, however, appears as confident as ever. During an interview on Radio Monte Carlo this week he said he wasn't afraid of other politicians - including Mr. Sarkozy - copying his ideas. "Bravo," he said. "It shows my ideas are getting somewhere." He described it as the LePenization of thinking.

Ms. Mayer, the analyst, is not so sure. Particularly not when it comes to Mr. Le Pen's thinking on immigration.

"There is the opinion among some that there is illegal immigration and we much fight it," she said. "But tomorrow, as the population gets older and older, maybe well be very happy to have these waves of immigrants to pay for our social security, to pay for our retirement funds."

So even as Mr. Le Pen's anti-immigration message draws new supporters today, it's far from certain how long that will last.

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.
Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisisi
X
Lisa Bryant
September 02, 2015 6:19 PM
Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisis

Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Russia-Japan Relations Cool as Putin Visits China for WWII Anniversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Beijing for commemorations of the 70th anniversary of China's WWII victory over Japan. Putin is expected to visit Japan later this year, but tensions between Tokyo and Moscow over islands disputed since the war, and sanctions over Ukraine, could pour cold water on the plan. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Kurdish Fighters on IS Frontline Ready for Offensive

Finger on the trigger, the Kurdish Peshmerga soldier stared across the dust at a village taken over by Islamic State extremists. The Kurdistan’s Khazir frontline, just 45 minutes from the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. And at this point, the militants were less than two kilometers away. VOA's Sharon Behn reports.
Video

Video Yemen ‘on Brink of Disaster’ as Medical Shortages Soar

Aid agencies warn Yemen is on the brink of humanitarian disaster – with up to half a million children facing severe malnutrition, and hospitals running out of basic medicines. There are fears Yemen's civil war could escalate as the coalition led by Saudi Arabia tries to drive back Houthi rebels, who seized control of much of the country earlier this year. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Apps Helping Kenyan Businesses Stay Ahead of Counterfeiters

Counterfeit goods in Kenya cost the government as much as $1 billion each year in lost tax revenues. The fake goods also hurt entrepreneurs who find it hard to carve out a niche in the market and retain customers. But as Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi, information technology is being used to try to beat the problem.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.

VOA Blogs