Front National Wins Popular Favor and Election at Brignoles

Marine Le Pen considers the FN's success in Brignoles a good sign for the party's future. Photo: Flickr.com/RemiJDN

Marine Le Pen considers the FN’s success in Brignoles a good sign for the party’s future.
Photo: Flickr.com/RemiJDN

The Front National (FN), France’s far-right party, saw a solidification of recent poll ratings in a by-election this past Sunday, bringing FN candidate Laurent Lopez into power in cantonal elections in Brignoles, in the southeast of France.

The FN, currently led by Marine Le Pen, has seen a dramatic increase in popularity over the past few months, mirroring a conservative political trend taking hold across the European Union. In a poll published on October 9 by the Institut français d’opinion publique (Ifop) regarding voting intentions in the coming 2014 European Parliament elections, the FN held popular favor, garnering the majority (24%) of the vote.

This vote represents the first time the FN has surpassed the two mainstream parties of the French political system: Nicolas Sarkozy’s center-right Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (UMP) and current President François Hollande’s center-left Parti Socialiste (PS). The parties won 22% and 19%, respectively.

“This survey reinforces the idea of a tri-polarization of French political life,” Ifop stated on their website, in an article accompanying the poll.

The by-elections at Brignoles solidified the trend that the FN had previously only seen in numbers, with the FN candidate, Mr. Lopez, winning 53.9% of the vote over the 46.1% of his UMP opponent Catherine Delzers.  The PS, who was not fielding a candidate in this round of the Brignoles election, endorsed the more moderate UMP candidate. Yet the FN candidate still prevailed, prompting party leader Marine Le Pen to declare to the press soon after the election that she was “proud” of their ability to succeed, “despite the UMP-PS alliance.”

The success of the FN in France mirrors a general rightward trend across European politics, driven by struggling domestic economies and high unemployment. However, the trend is not purely a result of economic factors – a growing conservative trend in social issues, specifically regarding immigrants and the Islamic faith, have added to the far-right party’s appeal.

When asked about the growing popularity of the FN, Florian Mathieu, a politically engaged French university student, noted that “discourse of foreigners and immigration” has moved rightwards among political officials, “including the left.” Recent comments made by PS Minister of the Interior Manuel Valls supporting the deportation of the Roma people, are evidence of the left embracing stances traditionally upheld by the conservative right.

Whether or not Brignoles can serve as a political indicator for the approaching elections remains to be seen. The FN has historically done well in Brignoles, with the cantonal being one of only two won by the FN across the whole of France in the 2011 elections.

“The southeast of France has always been a stronghold for the FN,” commented Mathieu. “It is not very surprising that it is in this region of France that the FN achieved electoral breakthroughs.” He also noted that “the FN is strong where leftist voters abstain in large numbers,” as was the case in Brignoles, where the two final candidates aligned far- and center-right.

Despite Marine Le Pen’s statement that “this vote shows the French have a wish for change,” Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault warned in a Paris press conference on Monday, “Brignoles is not France.” Hollande, whose public approval rating continues to decline, echoed Ayrault’s sentiments, noting that a return to the far-right “would be a regression and a threat of paralysis” for the European Parliament in May.

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  1. […] The Front national (FN), France’s far-right party, saw a solidification of recent poll ratings in a by-election this past Sunday, bringing FN candidate Laurent Lopez into power in cantonal elections in Brignoles, in the southeast of France. The by-elections at Brignoles solidified the trend that the FN had previously only seen in numbers, with the FN candidate winning… […]

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