French right-wing leader Marine Le Pen has proved her party is a force to be reckoned with, far from falling apart when she succeeded her father to modernise the Front National. She proved her power of persuasion over an even higher percentage of voters, and insists her third place success in the presidential election was not against the other candidates; it was for her.
Le Pen said: “Sarkozy explains it as a crisis vote, a protest vote. It’s not. It’s a vote of belonging. Marine Le Pen’s voters know perfectly well what they no longer want to have, and perfectly well what they do want.”
Sarkozy at the head of the conservative UMP party got two million fewer votes in this election than in 2007. At a branch in Haute Savoie they were convinced that most of those went to the National Front.
A UMP campaign organiser said: “They were our voters. We lost them, for whatever reasons. We have to go out and get them, not through alliances but through what we have to say, methodically, instructively, to return them to Nicolas Sarkozy.”
That is easier said than done. Le Pen’s support base has grown in rural areas that have traditionally voted right-wing. Unemployment and immigration influenced the vote. Many people say they feel insecure about those things. West of Marseilles, in a village where Le Pen won 35 percent, voters said they do not intend to vote for Sarkozy again.
One activist said: “We’ve waited for five years, on questions of secularity and the economy and so on. He didn’t do anything so I don’t see why I should give him my vote now.”
National data show 35 percent of French workers voted for the extreme right, a tendency that began in the 1990s. Workers who traditionally felt better protected with the left gradually felt that less.
Sociologist Paul Bacot suggests that values attributed to one end of the political balance have tipped to the other.
Bacot said: “We might wonder whether it’s the working class who have shifted right or if it’s the ideas of the right and left that have shifted. Some demands for social security and economic security and guaranteed social rights 30 or 40 years ago used to be parts of the core ideology of the left. We tend to think today that wanting those things is more a sign of the right, frightened by progress, Europe and internationalisation.”
Far right voters in France were won over by the new National Front party leader, encouraged that she does not hesitate to express ideas that they may share.
Polling expert Jean-Daniel Levy said: “When we ask them about their voting motivations and why they voted for Marine Le Pen, they say that at least she has it in her to call things by their name, to describe a situation with words and arguments that match their daily lives.”
Nearly a fifth of the French electorate want her to be president, proving the power of Le Pen.