Front National is the true winner of regional elections in France
by Dimitris Rapidis and Estelle Marenberg (December 14, 2015)
Front National (FN) has been transformed under Marine Le Pen's leadership. This is an evolving process that has started years ago when Le Pen was flirting with a clearly centre-right strategy on security and migration issues overlapping the rhetoric of UMP. Similarly, the organization of the party has become more mainstream and diversified in the way of approaching and endorsing new members, new donations, and new supporters in the society and the business world.
Above all, FN has grown due to the lack of inspiring politics by both the Socialists and Conservatives or, to put it this way, by the political inconsistency between what Hollande and Sarkozy were advocating when they were in opposition and what they did as decision-makers, i.e. especially with regards to their social and labor agenda. During the last regional and presidential elections in France FN always appears as the outsider that finally achieves to shake the French political system. With the same hypocritical and stunning reaction, the political system feels offended by the rise of FN as if this is a phenomenon of the last couple of months. The most solid proof of this hypocrisy is that PS and UMP cooperated yesterday in order to tackle Le Pen from securing the regions she was leading on last Sunday. Hollande and Sarkozy achieved to tackle FN, but truth is that this is nothing more than another strike against the credibility of the two major political parties in France.
Hopefully, there are some positive signs from regional elections in France. The first is that the electorate, despite its distrust towards the two traditional parties, finally decided to draw support from FN. This "blockade" against far right politics has to be nourished and developed not only in France but broadly in the EU where similar forces find a way to grow both as reactionary shelters of public grievance or alternative to corrupted mainstream parties.
The second positive sign is that even these old-school political formations could finally cooperate and put aside personal rivalries. Such coalitions should be put into perspective and build on a similar way to deal with big issues of domestic agenda, such as economic downfall and the inclusion of marginalized populations, i.e. mainly migrant youth, that have been abandoned by the central state. Especially on the hot-debated issue of security in France, after deadly Paris attacks, both parties need to find a way to solidify a compromise on the next steps. In any case, and as FN's power projection has shown a week ago, the over-securitization of the political agenda cannot work long-term; hatred speech will always prevail as long as decision-makers do not foster an ongoing multi-cultural and religious dialogue.
From another perspective, left-wing parties have been completely outdated on most of the topics and challenges. In times of austerity where leftist formations are growing in the European South, French Left cannot in any way be associated with the Socialist Party. The ideological refreshment of French politics is a necessity for the restitution of political normality and development in the country. Otherwise, FN will come back again next year, even more powerful and convincing.
Dimitris Rapidis is Founder of Bridging Europe. Estelle Marenberg is Junior Policy Analyst at Bridging Europe
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