Wednesday, April 21, 2004

The Fire Last Time

The horror: a French voter reacts to Le Pen's victory
To-day marks the second anniversary of Jean-Marie Le Pen's greatest ever political triumph. Let's remember it with the gravity that such an event deserves because the papers sure aren't. I can find no mention of it in the press save for this article in le Parisien. Since that day, the Front National has continued to put down roots in the French political landscape.

Yet, while, when taken together, all the far-right parties got 16.61% of the vote in the regional elections last month, the FN itself only got 14.7%, or 300,000 votes, a 0.5% drop over its surprisingly strong showing of 1998. The FN has not seen the advances it had hoped for and now has fewer regional elected officials than it did in 1998. It's strongest showing this year was in Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur (where Le Pen was not personally able to run: he's registered his home address elsewhere for tax reasons). In the first round, the Le Pen list got 22.95% — a drop of 3.5% from 1998 — and two points less in the second round. The only successful FN candidate who wasn't already an incumbent was Marie-Claude Bompard who now heads the regional council for Vaucluse, Orange-Est. Her husband Jacques has been mayor of Orange-Ouest since 1995.

Yet it's not all good news. The FN has again had convincing success in the previously left wing Nord-Pas-de-Calais. The FN's second best showing was in Picardie and the party also did well in Oise. And it has confirmed the trend of rising support in areas outlying urban centers and in rural areas: Centre, Normandie, Champagne-Ardenne, all of them areas that went against the Maastricht treaty in 1992. The FN also picked up voters in Midi-Pyrénées and Poitou-Charentes, Limousin, Auvergne and Pays de la Loire. However, in the Paris region, Le Pen's daughter Martine had an embarrassing night: 10.11% (12.26% in the first round) in a region where her party had received 16.5% in 1998 and where her father got 14.45% in the last presidential elections.

Seeing the expression on the face of the man above, I am reminded of the words of Farid Laroussi — a Franco-Algerian professor of literature at Yale who has recently taken us citizenship — in an editorial published last December in Le Monde, the subject of my first post at LOTF. He wrote
...while there may always be things to be criticized, they are less decisive, less cutting, than suffering the judgment of more than five million of my former compatriots who, during the last presidential elections, told me by voting for the far-right candidate that they would never want me around.

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