French Populist Party Grows in Power

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• National Front finds being “anti-Muslim” better for business than being “anti-Semitic”

By Pete Papaherakles

An election victory in southern France for Marine Le Pen’s National Front (NF) has mainstream parties concerned that NF could gain more regional seats in upcoming elections. The victory came in France’s Var province, which includes Toulon, an industrial city on the Mediterranean close to Marseilles, an area heavily plagued by illegal immigration, crime and unemployment.

The far right NF candidate scored 53.9% of the votes over the mainstream center right UMP party after Hollande’s ruling Socialist Party was eliminated in the first round of elections.

Ms. Le Pen took the opportunity to criticize European Union (EU) policies, which she called a “global anomaly.” She said it left Europe with no control of its economy, its currency and the movement of people in their country. She predicted that the EU would collapse like the Soviet Union and would return to a “cooperation of sovereign states.” Political commentators have pointed out that not only is Ms. Le Pen getting protest voters from the unpopular leftist party but is also winning votes from the mainstream conservative opposition party. The outcome confirmed what national polls have been showing all along: The NF could win more seats and towns than ever before in municipal elections next March and could top a nationwide poll for the first time in the European elections in May.

Hard Assets Alliance

Next month, she will travel to Holland to form a joint campaign with Geert Wilders, whose anti-Islamic Partij voor Vrijheid, (PVV) or Party for Freedom, is currently part of that country’s ruling coalition and also tops national opinion polls for May’s European elections. Building on her legendary father Jean Marie Le Pen’s success, whom she replaced in 2011, Ms. Le Pen has learned how to walk the fine line of right-wing politics. She has focused on illegal immigration, high unemployment, exit from the Eurozone and other nationalist issues while toning down language that might be perceived as “racist” or “anti-Semitic.”

Her father was repeatedly fined and convicted for racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism due to remarks like “the Holocaust was just a detail of WWII” and “the Nazi occupation of France wasn’t so inhumane.”

While forming alliances with more mainstream nationalist European parties like Holland’s PVV and Belgium’s Vlaams Belang, or Flemish Interest, Ms. Le Pen steers clear of far-right nationalist parties

She has insisted on not having the NF labeled as a far-right party and has distanced herself from nationalist parties like Greece’s Golden Dawn (GD) and Hungary’s Jobbik, or The Movement for a Better Hungary, parties, which she condemns as “Nazi” and “anti-Semitic.”

Unlike the British National Party’s Nick Griffin, who publicly supported the GD during their recent persecution, Ms. Le Pen has gone as far as to say that it was “unfair to be lumped together with the likes of Norwegian mass-killer Anders Breivik and Greece’s Golden Dawn.”

Critics have claimed that Ms. Le Pen might be overly allied with Zionists due to the fact that her boyfriend and FN vice president, Louis Aliot, as well as Geert Wilders, are both of Jewish backgrounds. Wilders is a known Zionist sympathizer, who travels to Israel several times a year. In her very first election run last year, Ms. Le Pen won 18% of the vote in the first round, more than her father ever did, while Hollande, the winner, only got 29% and Sarkozy had 27%.

But, as Europe moves further to the right and the socialist Hollande slips in the polls, Ms. Le Pen’s FN seems poised to win many seats next year as she has come to represent a French right that is more palatable in the public’s perception.

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Pete Papaherakles is a writer and political cartoonist for AFP and is also AFP’s outreach director. Pete is interested in getting AFP writers and editors on the podium at patriotic events. Call him at 202-544-5977 if you know of an event you think AFP should attend.

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