Robert Ménard Receives Support of the National Front in Béziers’ Municipal Elections

Image from a media campaign under the slogan “Free… but for how long?” to support freedom of the press in Tunisia, launched under Menard before he left office in September 2008 Photo: Magharebia, flickr

Image from a media campaign under the slogan “Free… but for how long?” to support freedom of the press in Tunisia, launched under Menard before he left office in September 2008
Photo: Magharebia, flickr

Former secretary-general and founder of the French branch of Reporters Without Borders, Robert Ménard confirmed on Thursday that he had obtained the support of the extreme-right political party, the Front National (FN). His statement, which was made on Radio France Bleu Hérault, admitted to receiving support from the part of right-wing Marine Le Pen, but having “nothing negotiated with the FN.”

Campaigning since September, Robert Ménard has reiterated to multiple news networks that he would not be the leader of a FN party’s municipal list. He has voiced himself as “apolitical,” though he is known for his tough stances on immigration and the death penalty, stances that align with the far-right.

The president of the FN, Marine Le Pen, has confirmed that “discussions, and very thorough” ones at that, have taken place between Ménard and the FN. However, she too denies any official inauguration. “We do not give the nomination to someone just like that, it does not fall the sky,” she said.

She added that Mr. Ménard “could be an interesting candidate” and that given the influence of the party in Béziers, the listing of a candidate of the FN or the Rally Navy, a political coalition within the FN, “should be significant.”

The FN has lacked a local leader in Béziers since the decision of Guillaume Vouzellaud to step back from the position in September 2012. The FN represents 20-25% of the French vote, and between 15 and 20% of the vote in the commune of the Hérault, voters who likely align with Ménard and many of his publications.

Founded in 2012, Ménard’s site “Boulevard Voltaire” provides a forum for highly conservative articles and opinion pieces. Specifically regarding Béziers, Ménard received some criticism for a statement posted on his blog last September. The city, he writes, is “no longer recognizable” by its inhabitants, that “[h]ousing is dilapidated, squatted by slumlords,” with “buildings occupied by the poor, the Maghreb, the gypsies.” Accompanied by an illustration of the Crusades, Ménard points to the surging number of immigrants as the cause of this dilapidation, who come to take refuge in the city’s affordable housing.

Ménard has worked with branches of the FN in the past, giving speeches as a number of their party conventions, such as one given on February 26 at the Traboule, the head of the party’s Lyon branch. He also participated in a conference organized by the far-right MP, Jacques Bompard, in the National Assembly. In 2011, Ménard co-published a book entitled Vive le Pen!, which advocates for the far right party’s freedom of expression, though does not support their goals explicitly.

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