Spring 2002, after living through the empowerment of the far right party FPPO led by Jorg Haider in Austria, the European community sees the first important action of the extremist right wing in a big European country, France. It is on the 21st of April that Jean-Marie Le Pen, leader of the National Front (FN), reached the second round of the Presidential elections with 16.86% of the French votes. Surprisingly, Le Pen was going to compete with Jacques Chirac on the 5th of May 2002. (CNN)
The entire population was watching TV when the pictures of the two candidates were revealed. This news instantly shook the country's ground. Journalists were trying to keep a straight face and were already commenting on manifestations that promptly took place throughout France. Massive groupings of young and older people expressed their fear during interviews, political leaders argued on TV. France was going through a critical time in its political history. Even if the majority of the people thought that M. Le Pen couldn't be elected president, pressure was definitely palpable, debates and manifestations took place everyday and words such as FN or Le Pen were constantly mentioned in conversations all around France.
[...] Thus, we understand now that the high scores of the FN in 1995 and in 2002 represented undecided voters who thought Le Pen would never be President and didn't hesitate to vote Le Pen as a protest vote to demonstrate their rejection of the politics. In 2002, this tendency was very strong and the polls did not anticipate the phenomenon. Secondly, the diarchy of the executive, which means that the Executive branch is ruled by two heads of state (the President of the Republic and the First Minister): the President appoints the First Minister according to the majority in the National Assembly. [...]
[...] Once again, voting for the National Front appears to be a vote for ‘change' or a ‘protest vote' that illustrates this rejection of the French political system in general. I remember many voters (family members, friends and acquaintance) who declared they voted FN as a voice for protest. In addition, the socio-economic context, that often serves to explain the popularity of extreme movements, can partially explain the high percentage of the 1995 presidential election in favor of the FN. Indeed, Europe came out of an economic recession around 1995, however, in 2002, France had been experiencing a growing economy. [...]
[...] The National Front is described by John Veugelers as far right party that has become the major organizational force behind racism in France today.” (Veugelers). Jean-Marie Le Pen founded the FN in 1972 and this latter is the President of the party as well. He is notorious for his strong charisma that surely plays an important role in the party's popularity. Indeed, voters tend to focus on the individual rather than the party. In other words, many electorates claim to vote Le Pen before the party itself. [...]
[...] Smith predicts in a New York Times article called ‘Party on Right Gains Support After Rioting Upsets France' that “France's far-right political party, the National Front, has emerged stronger than ever from the civil unrest that has plagued the country” riots by second-generation immigrant youth lasted several weeks in the fall of 2005 - new survey shows, suggesting that the party could play a major role in the presidential election.” In the same article, Smith cites Frederic Dabi's report who said: a string of national crises had bolstered Mr. [...]
[...] A possible come back Thus, numerous reasons can explain the rise of the extremist right party in France illustrated by the shocking 2002 election. These various factors need to be studied altogether as they are correlated and intertwined. Between the first and second round, abstention dropped significantly and the French finally felt interested in politics. However, following elections proved the French were disinterested again. Most French want to avoid such situation again and might therefore vote pragmatically on the first round from now on. [...]
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