According to a new survey by BFM TV, a French station, nearly one in two French voters (46%) think Marine Le Pen is the best opposition candidate to take on the ruling Socialist party. That’s a lot of support for a far right politician who once compared Muslim blocking French streets during prayer times to the Nazi occupation of France in WWII
The poll wasn’t asking respondents for the politician they’d like to see become president, and it wasn’t asking which politician they like the most. The 46 percent were saying Marine Le Pen is the best opponent to the ruling Socialist Party. Still, that’s quite a lot of support for someone so controversial.
Le Pen frequently courts controversy. She’s been called racist, anti-immigrant, and anti-Muslim. But she remains popular. Her party recently won a small election in southern France where disillusionment with Francois Hollande and his Socialist Party runs strong.
Le Pen’s popularity could have repercussions beyond France’s borders. She and Geert Wilders, a far-right politician in the Netherlands, are exploring the possibility of creating a pan-European Eurosceptic movement. “With far-right or populist parties across Europe threatening to create upsets in next May’s European elections, Mr Wilders and Ms Le Pen believe that the time is right to form an anti-European alliance,” the Independent reports. As Le Pen herself recently said, the EU is a “global anomaly” that will, someday, “collapse like the Soviet Union.”
One interesting thing to note: the UKIP (United Kingdom Independence Party), a British anti-EU party, is refusing to join hands with Le Pen and her aspiring pan-European grouping of anti-Europeanists. Le Pen’s brand of populist nationalism doesn’t seem to travel well over La Manche.
The National Front faces very long odds when it comes to gaining power at the national level, but local and European elections are a different story. Voters use these elections to send the political establishment a message, and a protest party like the Front can do very well in them. In Brussels, the eurocrats fear that a wave of anti-EU feeling across the continent could send a large bloc of anti-EU candidates to the European Parliament in 2014. This would make it even harder for Brussels to get things done.
[Marine Le Pen photo courtesy of Kenji-Baptiste OIKAWA]