The Malta Independent 21 May 2018, Monday

Marine Le Pen and the French presidential elections

Simon Mercieca Monday, 17 April 2017, 08:03 Last update: about 2 years ago

If ever there is going to be an election that will be followed closely, this is going to be the upcoming one in France. Many believe that Marine Le Pen will only make it in the first round. The general idea is that traditional parties will unite to block her from being elected president of France.

However, this analysis no longer holds. Surveys are indicating that this election is going to be fluid. First of all, there is the issue of François Fillon. If he does not make it in the first round, the chances of his voters voting for Le Pen’s rival are weak. No doubt that Le Pin will inherit some of his votes but unlike what happened to her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, in the French Presidential election in 2002, she will not get blocked in the second round with the same percentage of votes obtained in the first round.

Many are worried because of Le Pen’s anti-European stand. Some analysts are dubbing Marine Le Pen as anti-Muslim. I find this label extremely interesting. Those who are using this anti-Muslim argument are doing so to show that Le Pen has a policy of exclusivity, however, those backing this reasoning are ignoring one key factor. By being anti-Muslim, Le Pen is the politician who is completely in line with the principles of the French Republic.

In theory, France is a very secular and lay country. Though the Islamic attacks have created a new interest in Christianity, Rome is actually out of this new equation. I will not go into this matter but, in France, there is a strong tradition of the Gallican Church and today many French Christians do not identify themselves with Rome but with the Society of Pius X.

Undoubtedly, these terrorist attacks by Muslims are putting the whole concept of laicitéto the test. This is working in Marine Le Pen’s favour. From the time of the Third Republic, the French Left declared Christianity, or better still Catholicism as the enemy of the State. Back then, this was known as radical politics. Yet, this position of the Left is now at a difficult situation and not because of Catholicism per se. A small percentage of the French are practising Catholics but as a result of political contradictions the French Left wants to show its mettle.

The recent story, where a Catholic priest was dragged out of church and a beautiful neo-gothic church razed to the ground because the socialist mayor wanted a car park, hit a raw nerve.

While the French Left attacks Catholicism, it is all out to accommodate Islam. Mosques are being built and financed by Arab States. Important French politicians, for example, the Socialist Jacques Lang, ended up defending Islamic policies such as the ban in Saudi Arabia on women drivers. The Islamic community in France wants its Sharia Law. Marine Le Pen today appears as the only politician to have a real solution to these fears of insecurity and terror.

This element of religious ideology has been tiresomely present in this election campaign. The main and most vociferous criticism of the French Left against François Fillon was related to the fact that he is Catholic. The Penelope affair came later on in the political debate. In Europe, no one batted an eyelid. No one accused the Left that it was going against inclusivity. But when Marine Le Pen mentioned Islam she was accused of being racist.

This incident exposed the double standards of French politics and ended up working in Le Pen’s favour. But even here, it is more than just a vote in favour of Le Pen. Surveys are showing that the younger voters will either be voting for Le Pen or will abstain. Those abstaining in the first round will abstain in the second. But there is more to this survey than just vote preferences. France has a very positive fertility balance. It is the one country in Western Europe with the highest number of babies in relation to its population. But the most fertile are migrant families and their descendants.

The immediate conclusion that one draws is that the youths voting for Le Pen come from French families while those of migrant descent are tending to abstain. Not all the French migrants are of Muslim origins. There now will be descendants from families of North Africa who will be more than prepared to support Le Pen against those who did not ‘integrate’ in the French system. This is not strange at all; one needs only look at the number of migrant-families in the UK who voted for Brexit.

For those who think that educational policies of inclusivity are succeeding in Europe, we have here a clear example, showing that they are not. Despite decades of laicité, French students are now choosing to vote for Le Pen and this is happening despite all the rhetoric about cultural dialogue. Students are realizing that what they have been taught at school about intercultural dialogue does not work. They were taught that culture is interchangeable. In fact, it is not.

The French educational system has passed through a forced process of laicitésince 1870, with only a few exceptions. Despite these strong policies of integration to prepare les enfants de la patrie for a cosmopolitan society, these same children are now starting to question all this and are more than ready to vote for Le Pen. Clearly, forced policies in education do not work. One cannot use education to form minds. This is a Jesuit concept that was taken over by the Left. Education is there to give pupils the necessary tools to reach the point when they can decide for themselves.

The truth is that the political resistance to Le Pen and the National Front in France has nothing to do with issues of racism or anti-Islam. In fact, it is linked to the history of Vichy, the period in French history of collaboration with Nazi Germany. Marine Le Pen has understood this well. In a recent tweet, she disavowed and condemned this period of French history.

Despite all France’s talk about Pan Europeanism, since the 1789 Revolution onwards, France has become more and more nationalistic. The argument that the Francophiles are making, even in the local media,  that the defeat of Le Pen in the next election,will bring about the creation of a strong France capable of countering Germany, is false. The argument of the Francophiles shows that all  pasttalk about solidarity and subsidiarity in the European Union has gone with the winds. The Nation State concept in Europe is so strong that even countries like France, return to this ideal when they think that they are in a political crisis.

But there is more than this to Marine Le Pen’s candidature. For the first time, the French have a strong presidential candidate who is a woman. Despite all the discussion about gender equality and equity, patrimonial principles are very strong in France.

The French Monarchy followed the Salic Law, which prohibited women from inheriting the throne. Even if the Left has a tendency to speak in favour of gender equality, in truth, the French Left has some difficulty in accepting that its male candidate is beaten by a woman. To add insult to injury, this woman now leads the party that is normally dubbed by the Left as upholding conservative and chauvinistic values.

Lest we forget: whenever Europe experimented with extreme Liberalism, the answer was also a politics of extreme.  Extreme Liberalism was the main ideology in Europe in the 19th century, with only a few exceptions. It led to the Great War, which was followed by the rise of Extreme Nationalism and Extreme Socialism. What was interesting back then, is that, there were two extremes; one in opposition to the other.

In the Europe of today, there is only one extreme - that of Nationalism or the Extreme Right but there is no Extreme Left. This only confirms the crisis of the Enlightenment; the movement that brought about the creation of the Left and the Extreme Right. If the values of this movement are still strong, I would expect to have two Extreme parties in Europe but we have only the Extreme Right. Marine Le Pen moved her party away from the extreme positions of her father, pushing it towards the Centre, making her electable in the eyes of the French people.

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