terça-feira, 24 de novembro de 2015
The Le Pens and France’s fear factor
The Le Pens and France’s fear factor
The far-right leader and her niece are already making political gains after the Paris attacks.
By NICHOLAS VINOCUR 11/24/15, 5:30 AM CET Updated 11/24/15, 7:21 PM CET
PARIS — Few French politicians are better positioned to capitalize on widespread security fears and angst about Islam after the Paris terror attacks than far-right leader Marine Le Pen and her 25-year-old niece, Marion-Maréchal.
The National Front party president and her ambitious relative, who are both seeking election to powerful regional chairs in northern and southern France next month, have taken to reminding voters at every turn, in a variety of ways: We told you so.
It’s difficult to say exactly how France’s worst-ever terrorist attack will redefine the political landscape, or who will benefit and to what extent. One survey conducted by Ifop after the slaughter showed that President François Hollande’s approval rating had jumped by seven percentage points to a still-dismal 27 percent, thanks largely to his quick decision to call a state of emergency and crack down on terrorism.
But recent history suggests that the bump, which analysts attributed to a reflexive rush to authority, may be short-lived. In January, after the attacks on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, the Socialist Hollande enjoyed an even bigger spike in the polls, only to see his popularity score slide back to the mid-20s a few months later as Le Pen’s support kept creeping upward.
The grace period granted to France’s most unpopular leader since World War II by his rivals has been far shorter than in January.
Eleven months ago, Le Pen and other political opponents avoided harsh attacks on the president. Last week, they showed no such restraint, rushing to charge Hollande with major failures on every front, from foreign policy to domestic intelligence.
Le Pen, as usual, levied the most brutal criticism.
“If they had honor, they would hand in their resignations,” the National Front president told France 2 last week, referring to Hollande and his cabinet. “Those who died in January died for nothing.”
Fear and Islam
Hollande could blunt the Le Pens by preempting or dismissing their campaign proposals, showing a strong response to terrorism at home and abroad and using his presidential authority to drown out hecklers. Both he and Nicolas Sarkozy, head of the center-right opposition party, boast experience as statesmen, while the National Front chief is open to accusations that her party lacks the management skills to run a country.
But for now, with the hunt for suspected terrorists still underway in Belgium, and French Prime Minister Manuel Valls warning about possible chemical or biological attacks, the Le Pens are getting plenty of political mileage from the climate of fear.
On Saturday, a survey published by Harris Interactive showed that “security and terrorism” had jumped to the top of voter concerns after the attack, outstripping economic concerns.
This is welcome news for the security-obsessed Le Pens, who have long pressed for a total closure of French borders, stripping suspected jihadis with dual nationality of their citizenship and shutting down mosques where imams peddle radical forms of Islam.
Hollande co-opted some of those measures, at least partially, during his speech to Congress last Monday.
But a spokesman for Marion-Maréchal Le Pen, who is running in the Provence-Alpes-Cotes d’Azur region, said that voters knew which political leader had raised the issues first and would prefer “the original to the copy.”
“Security has become the No. 1, if not the only, campaign issue after the attacks,” said Franck Allisio, the Le Pen spokesman. “But she barely needs to change what she was saying; she is just carrying on as she was before, and voters can tell the difference.”
On top of tough talk on immigration and security, the darling granddaughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen has struck out with strong language on the practice of Islam in France — a thorny issue that her aunt tends to avoid, preferring to restrict her criticism to “fundamentalism.”
In an interview with far-right magazine “Present,” the Catholic-educated Marion-Maréchal said that Islam did not occupy the same “rank” in France as Catholicism, given that the country was defined by 16 centuries of Christianity.
Muslims therefore needed to “bend to” the customs of a country where people do not wear veils, she said, in remarks that drew accusations, not least from Christian Estrosi, her main center-right rival in the race, that she was treating Muslims as second-class citizens.
“The remarks were taken out of context,” Allisio said. “She meant that Islam could not be dominant in France, just as Christianity would not be dominant in Morocco.”
Such controversy has done little to dim the younger Le Pen’s appeal in southern France, a conservative region populated by many pensioners, “pieds noirs” (Jews who fled to France from Algeria after independence), traditional Catholics and military personnel.
On Sunday, an Ipsos poll showed that Marion-Maréchal would win the first round of the December 6 to 13 vote by a comfortable margin and go on to beat both center-right and center-left rivals in the second round in the case of a three-way runoff.
Ruling Socialists had hoped to avoid that scenario by calling for a “Republican Front,” by which the third-placed candidate would drop out and rally behind the second. But while previous polls measured results for a two-way runoff (Estrosi would win, 52 to 48 percent), this one did not do so.