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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Le Pen-Sarkozy : les dangers de la surenchère

by Lina Sankari

Le Pen-Sarkozy: The Dangers of Extremism

Translated Tuesday 15 March 2011, by Harvetta and reviewed by Henry Crapo

National Identity, Debate on Islam. The Sarkozy Administration and the UMP are trying to get out of the ditch by engaging in actions that support National Front positions in a context of extreme social crisis while polls deliver troubling signs.

The vicious circle. The President of the Republic, stuck with the UMP on the domestic and international fronts, is trying to arrange an electoral exit. The recent cabinet reshuffling, supposedly explained by the uprisings in the Arab world, once again make it possible to wave the specter of "migratory flows or terrorism" and to reduce the principal ministers of state power, in foreign affairs, defense and the interior, to simple tools for "security", and Marine Le Pen to rubbing her hands together while suggesting to "push any migrants who want to enter Europe back into international waters." Who is chasing whom, when the UMP announces a debate – remaking the national identity - on the presence of Islam in France right after Marine Le Pen created a media event on prayers in the street and the Islamization of French society? Who is chasing whom, when every warning light for Nicolas Sarkozy is red and an Ifop poll gives 20% of the intended vote for Marine Le Pen? In addition, some of the presidential majority is starting to warn of the dangers of no holds barred race with the National Front, and of possibly losing the race. In 1997, Nicolas Sarkozy himself spoke about the dangers of his current strategy: "When the right is not clearly identifiable, the extreme right prospers."

The National Front Moves the Center of Gravity to the Right

So, it’s not only a problem for the right, but also for the left, as political scientist Jean-Yves Camus, a researcher associated with the Institut de Relations Internationales et Stratégiques (Iris), revealed during his hearing on Monday at the headquarters of the French Communist Party. "The extreme right is a vote losing machine for the right, but it’s also a problem for the left. The National Front is biting into the traditional electorate of the left. But, on the left there is an enormous deficit in the analysis of what the right and the extreme right are. For the last thirty years, the extreme right has undeniably exerted an influence on ideas and has succeeded in moving the center of gravity even farther to the right. At the same time, the impression that the National Front is updating itself under the influence of Marine Le Pen makes it possible to attract new voters whose complexes are removed by what appears to be an updated message, far from the racist rants of her father, as Alain Minc, who predicts a development of the German CSU type, seems to believe.

Whatever the relationship of internal forces and the actual status of the militant membership of the National Front may be, the Le Pen - and now "Marine" - "brand" succeeds simply by the name in collecting more than 10% of the votes in regions where the party is unorganized. On the European model of the new right wing parties, Marine Le Pen borrows from the traditional references of the progressive camp to build her platform: return to the State, social message - which apparently breaks with the usual National Front’s liberal program -, return to the Republic, reference to the Resistance, the secular base.... Elements that obscure the message a bit more and now permit "the upper middle classes that believed that Jean-Marie Le Pen went too far to allow themselves to be tempted to vote for the National Front." Finally, beyond the defiance with respect to politics first shown by abstention - "a form of collective identity, which is breaking down," states sociologist Erwan Lecœur, today the National Front is clearly making the most of this disenchantment. "Among those who are still voting who can be tempted to vote for the National Front, there is no longer any feeling of collective belonging. They are workers, but they no longer perceive that their status results from their position on the social ladder, Jean-Yves Camus again emphasizes. There is no ability to see things other than as an individual."

To Fight the Extreme Right Today

To fight the extreme right today, the researcher continues to remind us that neither “ceremoniously repeating good intentions about the danger of the National Front," nor political rallying around a single party are efficient. Mere hand-to-hand combat of ideas, although necessary, no longer seems sufficient when discredited political representatives apparently are powerless in the face of economic and social deregulation and the crisis. Which sends the responsibility back to the left to immediately design a real alternative for change in order to reconnect with the aspirations of the people.

Lina Sankari

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