Her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, was the leader of the far right-wing National Front, but he was unable to forge a national coalition in France. So he never won a national election.
Marine Le Pen is trying to accomplish what her father could not. National elections will be held next year. Mlle. Le Pen is already driving the debate. Now she’s trying to forge a national coalition by rebranding her party as a stalwart defender of French cultural and political values.
“Honestly, I don’t see what there is in our program that fits ‘extreme right,’?” she says. “When David Cameron says ‘stop’ to the 200,000 immigrants a year, saying they should be limited to a few tens of thousands, no one says Cameron is fascist.” Going against the system seems mainstream today. “I’m reading Joseph Stiglitz’s latest book, and he says exactly what I’m saying. He says those who helped build the global economic system should surrender their aprons”—as in get out of the kitchen.
Her masterstroke is in the new vernacular she brings. It is calibrated for a new crowd, a new era intolerant in new ways, three years into an epic economic crisis that has politicians selling protection.
The days of petites phrases about the Holocaust, it would seem, are over. “Nostalgia for [Marshal Philippe] Pétain or French Algeria doesn’t speak to her, or [National Front] people of her generation,” says Sylvain Crépon, a sociologist at Nanterre University who studies the far right. “Anti-Semitism does nothing for them. They don’t see Jews everywhere, or a Jewish conspiracy.”
But it would be a mistake to call Jean-Marie’s daughter “Le Pen lite.” “On a number of subjects, I am a lot stricter than my father,” she says. “On the [Muslim] headscarf, I am stricter than him … He thinks that sort of behaviour lets French people grasp the extent of immigration in our country,” she says, talking tactics. But she argues “Islamization” is just a consequence, less visible 20 years ago, of the rampant immigration he always rebuked. “There wasn’t the headscarf, there weren’t ‘cathedral mosques’ going up on every corner,” she says, without betraying her hyperbole. “There weren’t people praying in the street. Our children didn’t have to not eat pork because it bothers some people,” she scoffs.
France’s current president, Nicholas Sarkozy, has an approval rating of roughly 25 per cent, depending on which poll is cited. He is expected to seek re-election. You can read the full report here.
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