Collapse of FN could spell end for far-right party

11th June 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, June 11, 2007 (AFP) - The far-right National Front party of Jean-Marie Le Pen had its worst score in more than 25 years in Sunday's legislative elections, encouraging speculation that it is disappearing as a serious force in French politics.

PARIS, June 11, 2007 (AFP) - The far-right National Front party of Jean-Marie Le Pen had its worst score in more than 25 years in Sunday's legislative elections, encouraging speculation that it is disappearing as a serious force in French politics.

With just 4.3 percent of the first round vote for the National Assembly, the party was back at levels of support not seen since before it emerged as a major political player in the early 1980s. It has not fared this badly since its 0.3 percent in 1981.

In a clear sign of its failing fortunes, only one candidate -- Le Pen's daughter Marine -- had sufficient backing Sunday to qualify for the second round of the vote next Sunday.

By contrast in the 1997 legislative elections, FN candidates in 134 constituencies passed the 12.5 percent barrier to enter the second round against the mainstream right and left. In 2002, the figure was 37.

After Le Pen's disappointing 10.4 percent in last month's presidential election -- a distinct comedown from his shock second place in the 2002 vote -- analysts said the party's long period as a destabilising influence on French politics is all but over.

"For a quarter of a century the National Front has played a baleful role in our politics, trying to popularise -- with growing success -- its xenophobic and racist message.... This long, excessively long, interim is now drawing to a close," Le Monde newspaper said.

Credit for the FN's eclipse is largely attributed to President Nicolas Sarkozy, whose campaign strategy -- with tough talk on law and order, immigration and national identity -- was aimed at drawing far-right voters back into the mainstream political fold.

"The president exercises a high degree of fascination for the far-right electorate, not just because of his policies but also because his whole way of governing and the determination he has shown to push through reforms are exactly what many of them want," said Le Figaro newspaper.

Many analysts compared Sarkozy's emasculation of the National Front with Socialist president Francois Mitterrand's deft handling of the Communist Party, which began to disapear as a serious force in the 1980s after it was embraced in an alliance with the Socialists.

If the decline of the Communists gave the Socialists a distinct numerical advantage for many years, the erosion of the FN could do the same now for Sarkozy's Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) as it monopolises right-wing politics in France.

With Le Pen, who turns 79 later this month, unlikely to stand in another presidential election, his disappearance from what has always been a highly personalised poltical machine will deal another blow to the FN's fortunes.

Though Marine Le Pen has done her best to pose as a modernising successor, she lacks her father's charisma and her position as heir-apparent is contested by other factions in the party.

Not the least of the repercussions from Sunday's debacle is its impact on the FN's finances. By failing to reach the five percent mark in the elections, the party is to lose much of the state subsidy on which it depends.


Copyright AFP

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