The National Front was founded in 1972 by Jean-Marie Le Pen and since the 1980s has managed to enter French political life. The European elections of 1984 saw the National Front gain 11% of votes, and in the parliamentary elections of 1986 and 1988, the National Front won 10%. The presidential elections of 1988 saw the National Front benefit from 14.4% of the votes cast in the first ballot. More recently, the presidential elections of 2002 saw Jean-Marie Le Pen face to face with Jacques Chirac. Many countries in Western Europe have experienced a significant rise in extreme right wing parties' popularity and some countries such as Austria and Italy have even witnessed such parties come to power in coalition governments. Several reasons can be evoked when trying to assess why there has been such a rise of the National Front in France, namely, political, social and economic factors, as well as an identity crisis, and other factors grouped into a cultural context. One of the greatest impacts of the rise of the National Front is the changing of the political agenda, which now has a greater focus on immigration issues.
[...] The rise in votes in favour of the National Front, are not new votes, and so one must keep in mind that these are votes from the Left and Right. Indeed, due to the continuous tensions between the Right and the Left as well as their ineffectiveness in office, the French were searching for a way to manifest their discontent. It has been noted that after periods of cohabitation the populist vote rises. At the time of the 2002 presidential elections, France had experienced the longest period of cohabitation to date, this then explains to some degree the rise of the National Front. [...]
[...] This goes some way in accounting for the rise of the National Front as their programme was and in general is focused on criminality and law and order. As most French people own a television and read a newspaper ( of French households are equipped with TVs (Mediametrie poll 2003) and 32% of all French people read a newspaper on a regular basis according to Ipsos 2003)) this line was naturally a top priority in the minds of the French people at the time of casting their votes, and so the National Front seemed a logical choice. [...]
[...] Since the National Front's electoral success in the early 1980s, it has served as beacon of hope for other like-minded movements” and has played a predominant role in French and European politics and society since the 1980s and 1990s. publicity generated by the Le Pen success is planting seeds in the UK, the rest of Europe and around the world”. The vocabulary of the English National Front also owes much to that of the French National Front. However, the National Front is often used by other European far right movements as a means to make themselves look more moderate and more respectable as the National Front is reputed to have the hardest line among extremist parties. [...]
[...] Therefore, the best possible way to assess the explanations for the rise of the National Front is to take a holistic approach rather than to separate out each possible explanation. Burléon sums it up neatly by saying prenons pas plus avant des explications mono causales une à une, aucune à elle seule ne suffit, chacune entre pour une part dans une combinaison” (Let us not take mono causal explications individually, for they are not enough, but each as a part makes up a whole). [...]
[...] Later on, when this explanation and reasoning seemed less viable, it was suggested that high rates of unemployment and economic hardship accounted for the rise of the National Front's appeal. Certainly, with respect to the elections of 2002, the grouping together of high unemployment rates and the National Front vote seem to offer some correlation, although it is not incredibly strong. A last category of explanatory factors shall not be left aside, although being the most difficult to define: the cultural context in which this rise is taking place Another explicatory factor in assessing the rise of the National Front concerns the idea of the French identity. [...]
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