Lyon is France’s second city and birth place of the 1990s urban riots which spread across the country. The city has long been conservative and the far-right vote is variable. However votes are changing in Europe and the far-right is attracting people from all kinds of backgrounds.
The Front National had 0.75% of the vote in 1974. By the 1980s they had turned a corner and stabilised at around 14%. They then peaked in 2002 when Jean-Marie Le Pen made it through to the second round of the presidential elections. Today one in ten French people vote for the Front National, but who are they? They are not easy to find.
Far-right voters are often reluctant to talk about their political leanings because of extreme stereotypes. However in an affluent Lyonnais suburb, the characture is broken when we meet housewife Muriel Coativy and recently retired Nicolas Flores.
euronews: “What is it about the Front National values that you relate to so strongly?”
Nicolas Flores: “National identity. Now I feel that everything is disappearing and that there are no more values. We can hardly say we love France, we no longer have the right to sing le Marseillaise. France no longer exists. It has no borders to protect itself and our rules come from elsewhere.”
Muriel Coativy adds: “For me it is a federalist Europe. Europe has been imposed on us and each country loses more of its identity. The people and the population are in the service of globalisation. Thinking about how it will all end doesn’t appeal to me at all! I’m scared.”
Europe is perceived by some as destructive to national identity and for many immigration brings with it a feeling of being ‘invaded’.
For Murial Coativy, Islam is at the centre: “There is no outright racism but I do think there is a feeling that Islam is favoured over other religions, which is an infringement upon secularism. In some ways it’s an attack on freedom.”
For Nicolas Flores, what he feels as the disintegration of personal rights is to blame for anti-immigrant sentiment:
“I am open to anything that brings something to French society. But someone who comes to my house to try to change my opinion, no! You can’t come to my house and tell me ‘your daughter has to dress like that, you have to do that, you have to eat this meat,’ not when I’m in my own home!”
euronews: “So, is France a haven?”
Nicolas Flores: “I’d be willing to see France as a haven – if we had the means. My house is open. If tomorrow someone wants soup, no problem! But then if 150, maybe 200 come, then it’s a problem!”
Muriel Coativy explains why she feels lucky not to be an immigrant:
“I was born in the right place. I definitely wouldn’t swap places with an immigrant, I wouldn’t want to be in their place and today France has nothing to offer them. We have to rebuild our health so that we can become a strong nation again and welcome populations in need.”
From Lyon to Amsterdam, the far-right has been polling increasingly well. The Netherlands is home to the Party of Freedom or PVV as it is known. It was formed in 2006 and today stands as the country’s third largest political power. Its focus is Islamophobia and anti-immigration. North of the capital, John Strauer runs a shop on the edge of bankruptcy.
He believes the country’s money is badly spent: “Many Criminals here are not from Holland and that costs lot of money.”
euronews: “Do you think migrants are responsible for crime?”
John Strauer: “Yes I think a lot of foreigners come here and become criminals because the law is not good enough to punish them. They have problems with living here in Holland.”
euronews: “What do you think voting for the PVV will do? Will it make them feel more integrated?”
John Strauer: “You have to start somewhere don’t you? PVV are the only party who stand for that.”
euronews: “As a European how do you feel?”
John Strauer: “It was not my choice to become one Europe. We have to help Greece but why? It’s not our problem. We have problems in Holland so why not fight for that and think about other people later?”
Mieke, is retired and flies a flag in her garden of Pim Fortuyn, the populist leader who was assassinated in 2002.
She claims the right to speak her mind: “Politicians aren’t listening to their own people, they listen too much to Brussels and they’re spending too much money outside of the country instead of helping their own people.”
euronews: “So Brussels and Europe are problems?
Mieke: “Yes, that’s what I think. There are too many people dancing. They are useless! When you come to Holland, you’ve chosen to come here and you try to be a member of the economy and to do something. You don’t come to our country and take my money for nothing and say it’s my right, it’s not your right!”
euronews: “Do you ever have problems with your flag?”
Mieke: “A year ago, an illegal man from Bosnia came and told me to take the flag down, if not ‘boom’. I was so afraid so I called the police who said he had war problems and I said is that my problem? Here we are living in a free country, I can put up any flag I want. So what Happens… these things help you to vote for the PVV end off.”
Compassion is not the preserve of the far-right in The Netherlands. Their rhetoric is more a little more direct but like in France, what people really want is to feel like their home is still their own.
From France to The Netherlands, through to Sweden, Finland, Austria, Switzerland and Great Britain – most populist movements in Europe have experienced a breakthrough in recent years but is there a common answer to explain this rush to populism?
Paul Bacot, a sociologist believes globalisation is the key issue:
“This is economic globalisation, outsourcing and all that it implies for a portion of the population. With globalisation comes immigration and Europe is right in the middle of it.
“There are no real limits on Europe and the feeling is that it needs to be fenced off in some way, or at least have more defined boundaries. There’s the feeling that if there’s going to be enlargement then there should be limits.”
The nationalist reaction is the modern far-right, who play on the anxieties of globalisation.
Nicolas Flores thinks when we are scared we naturally stick together: “We stay inside our borders and this could be seen as nationalism.”
Mieke concludes: “The more we are forced to be European the more people go back to their own roots.”