Tbar220 From United States of America, joined Feb 2000, 7013 posts, RR: 23 Posted (13 years 9 months 3 weeks 5 days 15 hours ago) and read 1277 times:
Shocked for the wrong reasons
Analysis By Bret Stephens
"I'll tell you why they vote for me: Because there is unemployment, crime; because too many foreigners live in France and make us feel like strangers in our own house. People are scared for themselves and for their children."
Thus spake Jean-Marie Le Pen in 1988, and 14 years later the song remains the same. The leader of France's National Front party has, over the course of four successive presidential elections, stood for exactly the same things, with no attempt to moderate his views or soften his tone. Over the same time, the breadth of his political appeal has also remained the same: between 15 percent and 20% of the electorate.
Yesterday was no different: Exit polls have him at between 17% and 18% in the first round of the French presidential system. The only thing that has changed is that the Socialist candidate, Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, polled even less, making Le Pen the run-off candidate against incumbent President Jacques Chirac.
This will no doubt cause shock waves throughout Europe and beyond. Attention will be drawn, first, to Le Pen's anti-Semitism: He called the Holocaust "a detail of history"; reportedly spoke of Hitler as "Uncle Dolphie"; and shared a dais with former Nazis. Le Pen is also avowedly anti-Arab, anti-gay, and anti-Europe.
But this comes neither as a surprise nor, indeed, as an especially damning reflection on the French public. Le Pen's figures remain pretty much unchanged. In previous elections, more than half of those who voted for Le Pen admitted to having no desire to see him as president. He remains a protest candidate, not a serious contender. And he will be trounced by Chirac in next month's final round of voting.
What is surprising is the remarkably poor showing of Jospin, who until recently seemed to enjoy a slim but persistent lead over Chirac, and whose Socialist Party dominates the French Assembly. His swift fall from grace leaves the field to two right-of-center candidates, and raises serious questions about the long-term political viability of the French Left.
Part of the problem for the Socialists lay in Jospin's technocratic mien and a streak of Calvinist severity that left many French voters cold. The larger problem was his inability, while leading the government, to contend either with France's decade-long economic stagnation or the skyrocketing incidence of crime. Until the French Socialists are able to remold themselves in the style of Tony Blair's "New Labor" or Gerhard Schroeder's "Neue Mitte" (new middle), it's likely they will continue to suffer reverses.
At the same time, questions confront the Gaullist Right. Chirac has been hounded by allegations of corruption during his tenure as mayor of Paris - allegations substantially founded in fact. Though he will walk easily toward re-election, the French Right of Chirac is as ideologically moribund as its opponents on the Left, peddling largely the same economic and social nostrums. It, too, is vulnerable.
Two years ago, in Austria, Joerg Haider's Freedom Party succeeded in coming to power less on the strength of its own platform than on the weaknesses of the two dominant parties. In Belgium, the separatist Vlaams Blok threatens much the same, as does the Northern League in Italy.
Jean-Marie Le Pen is no threat to the European body politic. But someday, from the stagnant pool of European politics, something much fouler might emerge.
GDB From United Kingdom, joined May 2001, 13492 posts, RR: 76
Reply 2, posted (13 years 9 months 3 weeks 5 days 11 hours ago) and read 1250 times:
Good post, and let this be a warning to all who cannot get off their backsides and vote.
I'm sick of hearing 'they're all the same', or 'I don't agree with this or that'.
Hello? You vote for the party which comes closest to your own general views, no such thing as a perfect party or goverment.
Another whine is 'I don't understand it all'
What? They can follow the plots of all those soap-operas many non-voters are addicted to.
Or, 'nothing changes', oh yeah? So Maggie Thatcher left the UK just how she found it? As did Atlee in 1945-51. I think not.
The recent UK budget marks a dividing line in politics here, and it will affect everyone.
LePen is a buffoon, and the French left are divided, the political class ridden with corruption and complancey.
Hopefully yesterdays event will be a wake up call to both voters and politcians alike.
Remember, in 1933 Hitler was voted in.
Singapore_Air From United Kingdom, joined Nov 2000, 13754 posts, RR: 17
Reply 5, posted (13 years 9 months 3 weeks 4 days 5 hours ago) and read 1200 times:
I think he's immature and it is a sad day for France.
However, much blame lies with the left who are only now realising their misfortune of splitting up into 10+ parties. If they all rallied behing Lionel Jospin, well, we wouldn't be having a discussion over an immature, facist and quite simply disgusting man.
He will lose the Presidential election. Let's just hope that voter apathy has been shook at it's roots. Or maybe Le Pen will get local seats....