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Can the Far-right's Marine Le Pen win the 2012 Presidential Election ?
This weekend, a French opinion poll led by Harris Interactive/Le Parisien has attracted a greater than usual amount of international attention. It suggests that far-right leader Marine Le Pen could win the first round of the 2012 presidential election. On the basis of this opinion poll of 1,618 people, Marine Le Pen is given 23% of the vote, 2% ahead of both President Nicolas Sarkozy and Socialist leader Martine Aubry.
Is Marine Le Pen's rise to power a surprise ?
No one has forgotten that Marine Le Pen's father Jean-Marie was the shock runner-up in the first round of the 2002 'Earthquake' Presidential election, polling more votes than the main left candidate Lionel Jospin. Looking for excuses, journalists and politicians then poorly claimed that polls had failed to predict Le Pen's popularity before the election.
This time, they have been warned : Marine Le Pen is running for the presidential election to 'win it, not to have a token role', as she crowed this weekend. Analysts say Marine Le Pen actually has a wider appeal among working and middle class voters, as she has softened her party's hugely controversial image, tarnished by her father's traditional revisionist line on the Holocaust and antisemitism. Nevertheless, Marine Le Pen still targets France's large Muslim community and journalists, the Front National 's long-standing scapegoats.
However, one could say Le Pen's popularity is mostly due to Nicolas Sarkozy's ambiguous stances. Each time he is facing troubles, the president uses far-right language and themes to strengthen support for his own side. But it also gives an ever-increasing place to the Front National's traditional themes. With his anti-Rom migrant campaign last summer or his current debate over French catholic roots, it is clear that, as the Socialist Party leader, Martine Aubry, said : 'Nicolas Sarkozy has been playing double or quits for the past few weeks'. Moreover, the numerous scandals the government has had to go through last months has reinforced the country's appetite for anti-establishment and populism which are Le Pen's most powerful weapons. On the other side of the spectrum, the Party Socialist's non-existent unity on crucial issues as 35-hour workweek and immigration is still weakening its credibility.
(Here is a music video of French female rapper Diam's who strongly opposes Marine Le Pen)
A warning it would be 'unwise-to-ignore'
The poll has caused a big shock in France, especially among political leaders. The left-wing daily, Liberation, declared that 'politicians are hesitating between prudence and panic after the poll'. Indeed, there is ground for panic, especially with regards to President Sarkozy's side, as another poll revealed on Sunday that the president fell to the lowest approval rating of any president in the Fifth Republic (that is, since 1958), with only 22 per cent of those questioned supporting him. The Socialist Party should also worry about the results, as in a new poll opposing Le Pen to the likely Socialist candidate Dominique Strauss-Khan (which is also the most popular of its leaders), Le Pen is given 24% of the vote against 23% for the IMF incumbent president.
However, some analysts question the accuracy of the online poll, which was framed in a rather dubious way : online polls are not exactly reliable and one out of three people gave no opinion. Lastly, we should bear in mind that it is only the first round, and that this does not mean Le Pen is about to win the election.
But however that may be, such a result is another humiliation for President Nicolas Sarkozy, a severe warning to all others 2012 candidates, and to be honest, a shame for France. It proves how fear and intolerance are ruling the political debates now. Things must change quickly, because France simply cannot affort another 'Earthquake'.