The French Republic woke up this morning with quite a hangover, after the surprising result National Front candidate Marine Le Pen achieved in the first round of France’s 2012 Presidential Election. She indeed managed to receive nothing less than 17.9% of the votes, an absolute record for the extreme party.
One after the other, French leaders Mitterrand, Chirac, Balladur, Jospin and Sarkozy, have helped the protest vote to increase at local and general elections, by not solving France’s real problems that have gradually fractured the country and its people. For over twenty years, Jean-Marie Le Pen was only a joke. A joke that however nearly surprised everyone on April 21, 2002, when he eliminated Socialist candidate Lionel Jospin, the favourite to win the election at the time, and found himself miraculously in the second round of the Presidential election up against Conservative president Jacques Chirac. April 21, 2002 was only just a first warning.
10 YEARS LATER…
10 years later, Jean-Marie Le Pen is no longer the National Front candidate. His daughter is. First, Marine Le Pen (whose real name is actually Marion Anne Perrine Le Pen) won a primary election, last year, against her father’s right hand in the party, Bruno Gollnisch, to replace her father and become the new President of the National Front. She, therefore, also became the party’s “natural candidate” for the 2012 Presidential Election. She then started giving a real facelift to the extreme party. The changes meant less provocation, less appearances of her father too (well known for his “gaffes” about the Holocaust for example) at the party’s rallies, no more skinheads or neo-Nazis connections with the party, etc. In a nutshell, Marine Le Pen has redesigned her party to make it “cleaner” and more respectable, to give the impression it has now become a right wing party like the others. Yet, scratch the surface and it is still deeply racist and xenophobic.
After the Presidential election, the National Front is meant to change its name. This is actually designed to give the legitimacy and respectability the party needs to more likely attract the lost sheep – voters of both left and right, who feel betrayed by President Sarkozy and his long forgotten promises. The chairmanship of “Marine” (also notice that Mrs Le Pen is less and less using her surname, another idea designed to make people forget about the father and only talk about the daughter) is indeed full of surprises!
Both the Left and the Right are guilty of one thing in France: they have made Marine Le Pen and the National Front new generation possible. They have created a monster! And Marine Le Pen’s result on Sunday’s election is the second warning. This is now a 17.9% monster! This is a monster which it will be extremely difficult to get rid of, for the young Marine Le Pen (43) is now here to stay!
On May 6, Sarkozy will lose. The Left will win. But Hollande’s electorate should beware of the difficult awakening, because the new Socialist president will not be able to do even half of what he has promised his voters. Not only because promises always remain during a term what they were during a campaign, that is promises, but also because, contrary to the claims made by the Socialist candidate that he will be in a strong position to bend the market and dictate to the market what he wants, he simply won’t! Every politician knows and every economist would confirm that, these days, governments mostly depend on market decisions, not the opposite. The president of a country is today nothing less than the equivalent of a Captain on board a large ship in the middle of the ocean (hopefully not the Costa Concordia kind of Captain! Sic.). As the ship navigates on that ocean, it might, at some point, meet with huge and dangerous waves, but there’s nothing the captain can say or do to change the waves and their intensity. The only thing he can possibly do is try to avoid the waves, and if not possible, at least avoid the wreck of the ship.
MARINE … 2017?
In five years’ time, the world will have changed. François Hollande will ask the French people for a second term (the French President is elected for five years, which can be renewed only once). He will certainly already have a majority at the Parliament (Parliamentary elections will be held in June), but will face a strong opposition. It won’t be Nicolas Sarkozy (who repeatedly promised to quit politics if not re-elected President! Sic.), but Marine Le Pen who will, by then, have gathered around her both “personalities from the civil community” – as she likes to say – and former members of the UMP (disappointed! Sic.), Sarkozy’s party, who will have thought that the grass is greener on the “Marine”’s newly designed party than on the former president’s party’s.
In five years’ time, President Hollande will therefore have to face his responsibilities and fight against a force which, if he has not done enough to make France “recover” from the crisis and the recession (in every sense of the word) during his term, will eat him alive in the first round of the 2017 Presidential Elections. The French won’t give him a second chance to succeed (amazingly enough, they will give him a chance although Holland has never been in government before!).
According to a poll by Ipsos, 43% of the French think that the situation will deteriorate during Hollande’s term, whilst 25% of them believe it will improve.
According to Ipsos again, “2/3 of Marine Le Pen’s electorate have chosen to vote for her first of all because she understand their worries (67%).” The so-called “protest vote” which some politicians are talking about doesn’t exist. People simply believe in her.
On Sunday evening, Marine Le Pen was already claiming she had become the new opposition leader. And we can bet the French will certainly turn to her if things go really bad in France under Hollande’s presidency.
The hope that François Hollande has created and generated must quickly turn into a living reality, otherwise the first woman president of the French Republic could well be named “Marine” in 2017!
THE SAME OLD STORY?
Let’s not forget that a certain Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany on January 30, 1933, in a democratic manner, after winning the 1932 Parliamentary Elections, and before his victory in 1933. He was named chancellor by the president because he was the leader of the winning party.
He began by renovating the National Socialists German Workers Party (better known as the Nazi Party) in 1925, making it respectable and reassuring to the country’s elite, to escape to its previous image of an extremist and revolutionary party. Then, thanks to the terrible economic and social consequences of the 1929 crisis, and thanks to errors and weak rhetoric of the other political parties, Hitler was rewarded with the incredible success of his party in the 1930 Parliamentary Elections which propelled it as the second political force in Germany. Finally, in 1931, Hitler formed the “Harzburg Front,” a union of various right-wing nationalist parties to oppose the government and the Republic. Hitler united everyone around him. Unfortunately, we know what happened next…
Let’s just say that the similarities between the two periods are striking!
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” George Santayana (1863-1952) said. The French must remember the past today in order not to repeat Germany’s mistakes, 80 years later.