French Prime Minister Manuel Valls is warning that the rise of the nationalist and anti-immigration Front National in France could lead to “civil war” in the country.
The Front National topped regional elections held over the weekend, and although they should be kept out of power in most of the country due to the second round of elections, the FN has never controlled any regions at all before.
The regional authorities aren’t enormously important in themselves, but the election shows the party’s support swelling.
Leader Marine Le Pen leads in most polls for the first round of the 2017 French Presidential election, and FN support seems to have swelled in the aftermath of the brutal attacks on Paris in November.
According to Le Figaro, Valls said that the FN advocates division which could build to become a civil war. He also accused the party of fuelling fear and promoting racism and anti-semitism.
The Front National is one of the hard-right, anti-immigration and eurosceptic forces that has become considerably more popular in Europe over the last few years. The Italian Lega Nord, Sweden Democrats, True Finns, Danish People’s Party, Freedom Party of Austria and the Netherlands’ Party for Freedom are other examples of the phenomenon.
It’s still some time until France goes to the polls for a genuinely important national election, and Le Pen will be disadvantaged by the electoral system. The two rounds of the election mean that only the top two candidates go into the final round. Even if Le Pen managed to win in the first round, she would have to gain support from voters who picked the mainstream centre-right or centre-left parties initially.
In 2002, Jean Marie Le Pen (Marine’s father) did make it into the second round of the French Presidential election, but was absolutely smashed by Jacques Chirac, the mainstream centre-right candidate, who picked up more than 80% of the vote.
Currently, former President Nicolas Sarkozy has the best odds of winning, followed by Marine Le Pen, with Manuel Valls in third place. Current President Francois Hollande has reached record low popularity ratings during his tenure, and has odds of just 22/5.