The Next Round in Hénin-Beaumont

Marine Le Pen.Photo: Flickr.com/RemiJDN

Marine Le Pen.
Photo: Flickr.com/RemiJDN

Jean-Luc Mélenchon. Photo: Flickr.com/RemiJDN

Jean-Luc Mélenchon.
Photo: Flickr.com/RemiJDN

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At noon on June 2 Marine Le Pen and Jean-Luc Mélenchon crossed fire during a heated debate on France 3 Nord/Pas-de-Calais. All the candidates in this legislative election of the 11th district of Hénin-Beaumont were invited to the debate. However, the fiery exchange between the two former presidential candidates completely eclipsed the presence of the other candidates. The latter denounced a rigged fight, “Front against Front”, manipulating and stealing from the voters the procedure of local democratic elections.

Le Pen proudly recognized her responsibility for the distribution of fake flyers, written in Arabic, which claimed to defend Mélenchon, candidate for the Front de Gauche, on behalf of the French voters coming from the Maghreb [The term Maghreb refers to Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia]. Earlier in the week, several militants of the Front National (FN), the extreme-right party of Le Pen, distributed those flyers, recycling a sentence Mélenchon had said in a meeting: “there is no future for France without the Arabs and the Berbers from the Maghreb”.

The two candidates fought ruthlessly, which has become almost tradition for these two national political figures. The warfare started during the recent presidential campaign, when Mélenchon asserted repeatedly that he intended to fight Le Pen to the end. He then intentionally chose to be candidate for the upcoming legislative elections in the same constituency as Le Pen, once again presenting himself as a barrier against the Front National.  Mélenchon has made this local election a symbolical battle against the FN, which could win several seats in the National Assembly for the first time in many years.

Le Pen claimed that nobody should ignore that Jean-Luc Mélenchon was a “crazy immigrationist” and that his “squeamish crying” was “pathetic” and unjustifiable, since neither the picture nor the words were false. Marine Le Pen, who defends a nationalist party platform, criticized Mélenchon for being in favor of immigration and did not oppose the influx of Romani people (or Roma), immigrants who are often associated with gypsies and generally immigrate from Eastern Europe, particularly Romania. This immigrant group has caused significant amounts of controversy in recent years. There is a Roma settlement near Hénin-Beaumont.

To these claims, Mélenchon responded that Le Pen and her team, of “little gorillas”, were “stupid” and contested the way Le Pen establishes a link between immigration and unemployment. “In [this] constituency, there are half less immigrants and twice more unemployment than in the rest of the country,” he said, concluding that Le Pen’s claims were nothing but a personal “phobia.”

Finally, after a long response from Le Pen, including that the Mélenchon was ready to open the area to the Roma and all immigrants, the leader of the Front de Gauche replied ironically that he was even ready to open it to “Martians” if necessary.

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