A new poll commissioned by French magazine Marianne reveals that if presidential elections happened today, Le Pen would gather the most votes and France’s unpopular incumbent President Hollande would be knocked out in the first round.
It’s the first opinion poll on voting intentions this year, and the solid advantage enjoyed by Le Pen and her traditional-conservative Front National (FN) party appears to have been confirmed in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo shootings in Paris earlier this month. Front National is the only mainstream French political movement that shows willing to tackle the problem of rising Islamism, and this appears to have delivered them an definite electoral advantage. Le Pen now sits with 30 percent of first-round votes, a gain of 3-5 points since August.
Despite the strong showing, it still yet may not mean Le Pen could be president. The French run-off system, known as ‘loser wins’, often means the candidate whom places second in the first round actually carries the second with preference votes, suggesting former president Nicholas Sarkozy could return to the palace.
The reasons for this steady growth in vote share are myriad. Like many other growing national conservative Eurosceptic movements across Europe, immigration is a major issue to the Front National. On integration, Le Pen has said to migrants “when in Rome, do as the Romans do”, rather than importing their own customs to France. She has expressed concern that French culture is “collapsing”.
Minorities in French society that feel threatened by the rise of militant Islam are increasingly turning to the Front National, despite it being a party that thirty years ago may not appeared to have been their natural home. Although thousands of Jews are now departing for Israel every year to seek safety from day-to-day Muslim anti-Semitism on the streets of French cities, of those who remain a growing proportion are voting Front National. The number siding with Le Pen’s party trebled between 2007 and 2012, a trend that shows no sign of slowing.
The same is true of France’s gay community, a sexuality considered a deadly sin in hardline Islam. It was revealed last week that gay and bisexual people in France are significantly more likely to vote FN than people who identify as straight, and it has been noted a significant “gay mafia” is taking key positions at the top of the party. A quarter of all gay Parisians now vote FN.
Explaining this trend, the Spectator reports the remarks of one gay blogger living in the French city of Bordeaux: “Up until 2005, Bordeaux was a very gay-friendly city.
“Same-sex couples could openly walk down the street holding hands without any problems. However, in the space of two months, five gay men were murdered in the city. The blame was put on Bordeaux’s Muslim community since some of these hate crimes were carried out by people of Arabic origins”. Since the attacks, the Bordeaux gay-scene has “dwindled”.
That French gays are increasingly supporting a party that doesn’t even support gay marriage is indicative of the concern in the community over the creeping influence of radicalised Islam in the officially secular nation.
After the attacks on the offices of Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish supermarket in Paris, Le Pen restated her previous call to reinstate the death penalty for certain crimes. In a video address, she said:
“Our country has never experienced so much barbarism for decades. The nation is united to condemn this hideous terrorist attack and to share the pain of the families. The nation is united to express our attachment to freedom of information and the freedom of press against who this attack was aimed at.
“But the nation is also united to say that we, the French people, regardless of our origins, will not accept this attack against our freedoms and against our lives; it is the terrorists’ objectives to put our freedom and our lives in danger.
“But we have enough intelligence to know that those attacks against us are not the consequences of fate. These are trained men with a deadly ideology who are murdering millions across the world. The objective is to terrorize, censure, paralyse with fear, and for others to submit. We condemn this attack”.