France's far-right National Front political party leader Marine Le Pen delivers a speech during a political rally in Six-Fours, near Toulon.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
PARIS – When the first results were released for the French local elections, the French Jewish Umbrella organization CRIF tweeted a sigh of relief: “According to main polling results, the National Front Party is not the biggest party in France.”
Indeed, the far-right National Front headed by Marine Le Pen came second with about 25% of the votes, after the right-wing UMP, which scored 30%. The ruling Socialist Party lagged behind, with only 21%. The results are not final.
A second round of voting is due to take place on Sunday, but analysts assess that there will be no significant change in the results. In any case, the Socialist Party cannot ameliorate its score, as in many places its candidates simply did not make it to the second round.
The virtual Jewish sigh of relief is only partial.
The National Front came second, not first, but one cannot qualify its results as a defeat, on the contrary. Tours University researcher Sylvain Crepon, an expert in political science and the French far Right, told The Jerusalem Post
that though the results of the Le Pen’s party are “less spectacular than anticipated in polls, it continues to grow stronger.”
“Many polls predicted that the National Front would become the biggest party in France and that they would secure at least 30% of the vote. That did not happen. But it is important to examine the results on a larger scale. The far Right party had good results at the European elections; it had good results at the municipal elections, and now they are in second place at the local elections. I expect this tendency to continue at the December regional elections.”
Crepon said that Le Pen has set up a clever strategy ahead of the 2017 presidential elections, with an approach much different than that of her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen. “Marine Le Pen understood that she must invest much more in grass roots work. She has internalized the concept by which she can gain many votes, not only through tough extreme-right slogans, but also by working at the local level.”
The French Jewish community fears exactly that.
In a strong declaration prior to the elections, CRIF President Roger Cukierman called on French Jews to vote for “moderate parties" and stop the National Front. The Jewish leadership is hesitant for the moment to react to the results, preferring to wait until the second round, but in private conversations they express concern, as the continued electoral successes of the French far Right is undeniable.
They fear that many French voters overlook the extreme aspects of Le Pen’s party, and are ready to support a faction that promises a tough hand on the immigration issue, battling extreme Islam and opposing European solidarity.
Crepon claims that the Socialist Party failed because of the moral issue.
“Prime Minister Manuel Valls called to vote against the FN, to stop the far Right, but many people won’t decide whom to vote for based on these moral arguments. It is true that recent events, the January massacres, did not really benefit any of the political parties, but we can distinguish a structural change in society, where voting for Le Pen has come out of the closet.”
Well-known Jewish lawyer and activist Arno Klarsfeld does not hide his political sympathy.
Ahead of the elections he tweeted “Nicolas Sarkozy is our best chance, the best protection against far Right demagogy.” Klarsfeld and other prominent Jewish leaders believe that the community must already prepare for the 2017 presidential elections.