The National Front’s rise in the polls in recent years is due to the public’s ignorance of the EU system, according to a French political insider and academic.
This statement comes immediately after a week which saw the National Front make major strides in regional election, though the party failed to win control of any of the regions in the final round. Marine Le Pen secured a disappointing 42.8 per cent in the northern region of Nord-Pas-de-Calais-Picardie, with the far-right party finishing in third place in the 2nd round of voting in France.
The party achieved 27 per cent, just a few percentage points below their result in the 1st round. The Union de la droite nationale, the coalition of conservative parties, emerged as the victor with 40 per cent, while the Union de la gauche, the coalition of left-wing parties, came second with 29 per cent.
In a speech to her supporters broadcast on France 24, Le Pen accused the government of “intimidating” French voters, and stated that the far-right party had been a victim of “defamation”.
Watch the full speech below (in French):
Solja Hoft, a former French language tutor at Oxford University, believes that it isn’t just disappointment in traditional parties that is driving people to vote for the National Front. Speaking after the full electoral results were published by the French government (in French), Hoft was adamant that the majority of the population is more afraid of the unknown threat that the EU represents.
“I think it’s due to an innate ignorance of the European system, and specifically what the EU does. Many are unaware that the global economy is not in fact detrimental to the French economy.”
The French public, and particularly the younger voters, currently have very little confidence in the EU. Le Pen’s anti-EU rhetoric plays right into that mentality, as people search for societal scapegoats.
Hoft also echoed the words of the Socialist prime minister, Manuel Valls, who spoke of encouraging people to vote for a candidate and party, rather than just tactically voting against. The problem for Hoft is that the French population is now leaning towards the right out of apathy; “French society seems to be leaning more and more towards fascist morals these days.”
Front National won more votes today than in 2012 presidential election (but turnout then 80%, today 60%)
— Alberto Nardelli (@AlbertoNardelli) December 13, 2015
Many Socialist candidates pulled out of the regional elections, so as to allow tactical voting to stop the National Front in its tracks. There was also an increased turnout compared to the 1st round of about 7 per cent, which suggests that there has been strong mobilisation to decrease the party’s chances.
Main photo: Flickr.com/Vincent Jarousseau