By Theo Larue and Yury Polyakov
How it all started
Marine Le Pen and the National Front have jointly launched the evolution of French Politics. French politicians attempt to include ‘Vive La France’ phrase in every political speech that they try to deliver to the audience. The Presidential and General Elections in France are the perfect examples of robust procedures where such variables as the turnout rates and the political pluralism are considerably high in comparison to the US and Britain. Hence, nobody rejected the intention of Jean-Marie Le Pen of registering the National Front Party to take part in the General Elections in 1972.
Since then, Front National worked hard to gain the status of the most controversial party in the Western Europe. The party struggled to gain good results on the General Election because in the French Election the number of votes is not proportional to the number of seats. Nonetheless, Jean-Marie Le Pen got in the second round of French General Election in 2002, where he lost his bid for the presidency to Jacques Chirac. Nevertheless, Front National started to get worse results because Jean-Marie Le Pen was fostering his radical stance before he stepped down as the party leader in 2010.
Marine Le Pen beat Bruno Gollnisch and won the leadership contest in 2011. Le Pen stated that as the new chairman of National Front she will advocate the protectionism alongside state-centric approach to France’s domestic and foreign policy and will also try to abandon the Euro to enhance the party appeal to the working class people. Although Front National won only two seats, Le Pen leadership style established the potential for the transformation of the National Front into the influential political force that can encourage the French People to choose them over the Socialist or Republican parties.
“LE PEN GOES ON TO THE SECOND ROUND OF THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS” read the headlines of most major French newspapers on the morning of April 22nd, 2002. And for the first time, there is a possibility that newspaper headlines will read that same phrase again. Back then, her father had scored almost 17%, however electoral turnout was low compared to 1997 and 2007, meaning the die-hard Front National supporters that actually voted weighed more on the national scale. The Front National still has these supporters, however they account for less than half of the 27% of French people that will vote for Marine, according to the polls.
Marine Le Pen’s success this year can be attributed to several factors. Of course, she is surfing on the wave of populism that has struck Western political systems, first with Brexit and then with the election of Donald Trump. One of her more controversial proposals includes the “national preference”, which would grant legal and medical help to French passport holders first and foremost. At present, this is illegal, but she plans to hold a referendum in order to amend the Constitution. In any case, this would mark a dramatic change in France’s social policies, which have provided assistance to anyone on French soil regardless of background (for example, many hospitals in French Polynesia are used to delivering babies for women from impoverished surrounding islands at virtually no cost).
She has also been very critical of Islamic fundamentalism, arguing it is incompatible with the secular state that is France. In reality, her criticism has been aimed at Islam in general, until she toned it down for political purposes. She most notably claimed in 2010 that Muslims praying in the streets of France was a form of “occupation”. In 2012, she claimed that all the meat sold in the Paris region was halal (except pork), and that consumers knew nothing about this. This was found to be untrue, but her Islamophobic message appealed to some French voters, and this is especially true after the November 2015 attacks in Paris. During the December 2015 regional elections, the Front National performed so well that the socialists and conservatives instructed their supporters to vote for each other in certain regions to ensure that the far right party did not capture any regional constituency. France still lives in fear of ISIS, with the army still patrolling Paris. While this is the case, she will continue to gain votes by instilling fear into the French people.
Finally, Marine Le Pen has voiced her strong euroscepticism, despite winning the European legislative elections in France in 2014. Ironically, if she wins the election, the EU and the Euro are pretty much done for. She advocates for reverting to the Franc currency, as a means of controlling the country’s financial power more directly. This is one of the proposals that garners her support from outside party lines, as most French people feel they are paying to support the smaller economies of the Eurozone.
What is next?
Political factors inevitably spill over to various spheres of social and moral life. Yet Le Pen did not lose much of her support in spite of the tax scandal regarding her income record during her Parliamentary term days. Jean-Claude Juncker outlined the basic propositions about the future of Europe in White Paper that he presented on 1 March 2017. The White Paper left more questions than answers because its content covers all difficulties that the European Union is currently facing. Bearing in mind that Marine Le Pen is not willing to slow down her campaign or to provide more public space to Macron, Fillon, and Hamon. Moreover, Le Pen will probably continue to attack Juncker, the EU bureaucrats and the global corporatist elite for the five bullet points about the stability, single market, defense, efficiency, and continental partnership. The inauguration will take place a few days after the election. Furthermore, there are going to be the Legislative election in June.
Political experts experienced two events considered the ‘Doomsday’ of international sociology – Brexit and the US election. Newspaper and Think Tank opinion polls did not reflect anything that was close to the real electoral outcome. In particular, they set the newest trend in the international environment where political forecasts fail to predict Western democracies. Alek D. Epstein argues that in spite of the fact that we do not know whether Le Pen will win or lose in the second round to Macron or Fillon, the governments should prepare for all scenarios by using its forces and expertise. Dr. Epstein must be taken into consideration because Emmanuelle Macron calls upon building the Social Market economy that is similar to the Scandinavian model. Hence, the governments must consider the diplomatic strategies that they will use to deal with Le Pen, Macron or possibly Fillon.