Having topped the polls in last year’s European Election, Marine Le Pen’s National Front is set to become the biggest party in France with the French Prime Minister accusing the party of wanting to “kidnap France” at this month’s regional elections.
The latest polling data, which comes after it was revealed French Jews are increasingly turning to the right wing party, puts the National Front on 29 per cent, four points clear of the opposition UMP and creating a significant gap between them and the socialists on 21 per cent, The Local reports.
The country votes on March 22nd and 29th to elect representatives in each of the country’s 101 counties.
Nonna Mayer, a political scientist from Sciences Po said the party “are on the rise.”
“In the last presidential election Le Pen got 18 percent of the vote, they got 25 percent in the Euro elections and now they could get as much as between 30 and 33 percent of the vote in the départemental elections.”
And she said even though it was for local, rather than national elections, the results are “vital” for the charismatic leader who has moved the party away from the anti-Semitic line her father took. For her party to have elected representation “gives the party much more credibility and visibility,” says Mayer.
“She knows if you want to succeed in politics, it’s not only about the leadership, but you need a party behind it. That means the presence of the National Front in all layers of democracy in France.
“It’s a long term strategy. They have been attracting new activists since 2011, including more young people and women,” she said.
In May last year the party secured 24 MEPs in the European Parliament, although they sit in the Non Attached group making it more difficult for them to have access to information and structure which other multi national groups benefit from. UKIP leader Nigel Farage refused to align himself with the party, although some people say that decision was more based on the reaction from the UK media since his current group, the EFDD, does not have any other French members.
But like the UKIP leader, Marine Le Pen has a struggle to convince voters and commentators alike that the party is not just about her – the respectable, polished figurehead. They have been hindered by disreputable candidates and still carry the mill stone of Jean-Marie and his distasteful views on Jews as well as being seen as a Vichy supporter.
Mme Mayer said the party is “trying to convince new activists to be candidates” as they will want to have representation across the country. “But,” she added, “some of them are not really appropriate.”
“Le Pen needs to show they are not racist or anti-Semitic but some of these candidates are not, shall we say, respectable,” she added.