Drama in Hénin-Beaumont Brings Out Traditional Strategies against the FN

 In the 11th district of Henin-Beaumont, a northern French City in the Pas-de-Calais region, two former presidential candidates, Marine Le Pen of the extreme right Front National, and Jean-Luc Mélenchon of the far left Front de Gauche, are facing each other once again for the legislative elections, giving this local election national attention.

The two former presidential candidates were both eliminated after the first round, and spent the majority of their respective campaigns attacking each other in the media. Mélenchon made Le Pen the main target of his attacks, realizing that the FN had garnered a large amount of votes from the working classes, a demographic that traditionally leans left or extreme-left.

Mélenchon decided to run in  Henin-Beaumont because of similar logic. In the first round of the presidential elections in late April, he received 11.11% of vote, which proved to be disappointing after a campaign with so much momentum. Le Pen received 17.9%, putting her in third place behind current President François Hollande and incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy.

Mélenchon immediately offered his support to François Hollande, the Parti Socialist (PS) candidate in the second round of elections whereas Marine Le Pen refused to support either of the candidates, asserting that the PS and the Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (UMP), Sarkozy’s party, were more or less two faces of the same coin.

After her unexpectedly high performance during the first round, Le Pen is trying to continue the success of the FN by gaining deputies in the National Assembly. However, her party’s platform is extreme on the French political spectrum and have always been strongly opposed by the other parties. Traditionally both right and left have joined forces against the FN because of their extreme nationalist tendencies. Le Pen’s father, Jean-Marie Le Pen and the previous leader of the FN, has often defended xenophobic ideas, sometimes even questioning the reality of the Holocaust.

Le Pen’s high score in the Presidential election may translate into FN success in the legislative elections, most notably affecting the UMP candidates in right-wing regions. Regardless the UMP will not consider negotiating with the FN. An important UMP leader, Alain Juppé said Saturday May 26th, “there is no possibility of an agreement with the FN at all, for ideological, programmatic and strategic reasons”.

PS members also have vowed to support UMP candidates for the second round of the legislative elections should an FN candidate make it to the second round against an UMP member. Martine Aubry, leader of the PS was very clear, saying that: “every time the FN may win, we will support the pro-republican party”.

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