Viewed from abroad: the rise of Marine Le Pen

Far-right National Front candidate Marine Le Pen came in third in the first round of the French presidential elections Sunday with an impressive score: she received 17.9% of votes, nearly one percent higher than her father received in 2002 when he made it to the second round of the elections.
Her positions on security and immigration, the National Front’s main battlegrounds, swayed many voters. According to Le Pen, illegal immigration is growing at an alarming rate, especially since “the Arab crises of late 2010 and early 2011.” She argues that France’s social benefits – “the most advantageous in all of Europe” – make it an especially attractive destination for immigrants.
To fight what she calls this “scourge,” Le Pen’s plans include doing away with laws that allow some illegal immigrants to apply for residency, as well as to drastically reduce the number of people granted asylum in France.
We asked four of our Observers around the world what they thought of this sharp rise of the far-right in France.

“I worry the National Front could become a serious alternative to the traditional right”

Youssef Fayla Cherif is a blogger. He lives in Tunis, Tunisia.
When I heard the results, my first reaction was fear. Not fear of the present, since after all Marine Le Pen got third place and is now out of the race. But fear of the future – of the presidential elections that will take place 2017 and 2022.
The National Front lost some of its momentum in the last elections in 2007 [Jean-Marie Le Pen, Marine’s father, ended up in fourth place with 10.4% of the vote]. However, it seems to have really rebounded this year under Marine’s leadership.
Nicolas Sarkozy comes out of this vote weakened, so I worry that the National Front could become a serious alternative to the traditional right and become the left’s main opponent if France’s economic crisis worsens. The current social and economic crisis is a perfect breeding ground for the far-right, which feeds on the French population’s deepest fears.
Le Pen is now a kingmaker – she will determine who wins the second and final round. Sarkozy has to focus all his attention to those who voted for her if he wants to win.

“The French aren’t fundamentally racist. They’re just sad and discouraged”

Lamine M’Bengué is a musician and a storyteller. He lives between Paris, Barcelona and Dakar, Senegal. In July 2009, he filmed an illegal immigrant being brutally kicked out of the Spain at Madrid’s airport.
Imagining Marine Le Pen in power terrifies me. However, for now, what’s truly terrifying is the high score she garnered Sunday [17.9%]. This was clearly an anti-establishment vote. The National Front is a magnet for all the frustrations of the French, the despair of the unemployed and all those who feel left behind. The French aren’t fundamentally racist. They’re just sad and discouraged.
In Spain, where the far right barely has any power at all, racism is much more present than in France. In Barcelona, when I go visit my friends, their neighbours often ask me who I am and what I’m doing in their building!
I believe the French will eventually wisen up to the fact that Le Pen’s platform is empty. She’s just trying to scare people by brandishing the threat of young hooligans from the impoverished suburbs who might be tempted by radical Islamism. In the era of globalisation, her ideas are archaic and simply impossible to put into practice. France needs African workers to continue growing. If France closes its door to African workers, that’s too bad for France! They’ll just go to countries where they’ll be better welcomed: Canada, the United States, China…

“The National Front isn’t so much about punishing illegal immigrants as it is about preserving French citizens’ quality of life”

Stefan Gyuricza is an economist. He lives in Bucarest, Romania.
Nicolas Sarkozy has done a lot for France, but France needs a leader that is even stronger and better prepared to face an economic crisis.
Marine Le Pen’s excellent results are good news for France because she is the only candidate fighting for the country’s values. Her strong showing proves that French people want change, and are fed up with seeing their quality of life getting worse and worse year after year, government after government. I don’t believe she poses any threat to democracy, as some claim, because if she becomes president one day, it will be the result of a democratic vote.
The National Front’s policy proposals aren’t so much about punishing illegal immigrants as they are about preserving French citizens’ quality of life. Tough choices need to be made, and the government’s primary focus should be on its own people.
The numbers of legal immigrants in France needs to reflect a real need for additional workers. That may mean massively cutting down the number of immigrants France accepts; so be it. It does not need more unemployed people. France is a country I know very well, and I do not think the French are racist. It has always been welcoming to foreigners.

“Le Pen conveniently forgets that immigrants have contributed to France’s development”

Moulaye Oumar Haidara is an IT specialist. He lives in Bamako, Mali.
Marine Le Pen’s high score shocked me. Part of my family lives in France and would be very worried if Le Pen won in the next elections. She scares many people. Her policy proposals regarding immigrants are even more repressive than those of Nicolas Sarkozy – and that’s saying a lot!
The National Front’s plans are selfish and profoundly unfair. We all depend on one another. You [the French] give us hospitals, and us Malians help construct all sorts of buildings for you. We help each other out. It would be a tragedy if this were to end.
Le Pen conveniently forgets that immigrants have contributed to France’s development. And French companies are quite happy to hire immigrants that can do tough work for low wages.


Marine Le Pen

O. K. Marine – ça marche!

African Immigrants are the product of colonialism.

Immigrants in Europe do the worst jobs for the lowest wages. In France as well.

If they could find a job in their Country they would probably stay where they are. To come over here they must leave their families, their traditions, which are so different from ours. Most of them can afford only a very low level of life, because they must send part of their wages to their families. But only in case they DO have a job.

Illigal immigrants, on the contrary, have spent all their money to escape from violence and corruption in their Countries. Hundreds of them have died during the trip on awful boats, crowded with human beings, with no water and no food during long days.
Their families are still waiting for a letter or a call, which will never come. Some of them starving, because they gave the last cent to their beloved son, daughter, or husband to help him leave for a better life. The European dream.

The illegal immigrants who made it to land in Lampedusa (Sicily) or the Canary Islands have to face the police controls. They often don't know the language and many of them can't explain they are looking for political asylum.

The ones who made it, must fight every day for survival. They soon get depressed and stressed in search of documents which never come. Many of them get cheated by criminals, selling false documents. In Italy they wait for hours, standing at the corner of the street, with their empty hat. When they make 2 euros, they must use one to eat and the other euro to pay the room, they share with five or six friends. When they travel on trains and buses without ticket they must hide or get down at the first stop.

Some of them start selling drugs and get involved in criminal activities.

The demographic increase in Africa is dramatic. African governments show an inadequate use of local wealth sources. We read about corruption and dictatorhips.
But what do European Countries to change their destinies? Did they already forget about their ancestors, who started a wild colonialism to full their own pockets, whipping and selling slaves?

Do they realize that the old race discrimination is still going on under the form of modern exploitation?

Nowdays financial and political tensions in Europe are getting worse and worse.
The national debts are overwhelming us and I think several European Countries
would definetely change their mind if they could go back to their own money value.

Le Pin should not forget that past and present immigrants have contributed to the industrial and commercial development in France. And that the problem of illegal immigration in Europe must be faced at the root, with the full cooperation of African Governments on the spot.

Marine Le Pen's advance reflects her Centrist Agenda shift.

Marine le Pen learned the lesson meted out to Front National by Nicholas Sarkozy's UMP in 2007 in which he pushed his agenda further to the right arguing that he would be more likely to convert the Nationalistic proposals traditionally the preserve of Front National into action by being the more likely President.

This time around, Marine Le Pen effectively ceded the border security and anti immigration platforms to Nicholas Sarkozy's UMP while speaking more to the growing malaise aginst the Globalist agenda and the centralisation of power within the EU and the attack on national sovereignty. This push to the centre effectively pulled in votes from the left and the right, votes Nicholas Sarkozy must have hoped would have been won for UMP. In martial arts terms, Marine Le Pen performed a flawless aikido step back and throw.

France hasn't become more racist, that is an oversimplification; the FN have widened their agenda and their rhetoric which has won them more votes. Sarkozy, representing one half of the unpopular "Merkozy" partnershhip at the core of the Eurozone crisis, cannot address these anti EU concerns and the rhetoric of the Socialist and communist camps cannot fully engage with this unease either being effectively Pro Federalist at their core.

The greatest failure here is the slump in the 2012 MoDem vote. Mr. Bayrou must wonder what happened to his caampaign when Marine Le Pen could effectively detoxify the Front Nationale brand and take his voters.