By Koustubh Tol
On 21st January, one of the front-runners of the upcoming French Presidential elections, Marine Le Pen, announced that 2017 would be the “year of the awakening of the people of continental Europe”. Also during her speech at a gathering of European right-wing parties, National Front party’s leader said, “We are living through the end of one world, and the birth of another”. Her views about the future of European politics are similar to the ones adopted by most of the extreme right-leaning nationalist leaders in the recent past. Considering the dramatic political outcomes of last year, one cannot neglect the possibility of parallel results in the upcoming European elections especially after the rise of populist sentiments led by leaders like Ms Le Pen.For more than a year polls have suggested Marine Le Pen will come in first in the first round of French Presidential elections on April 23, 2017 | Photo Courtesy: New Europe
Marine Le Pen in French politics
Riding on low popularity, the incumbent President of France, Mr Franc?ois Hollande of the Socialist party, announced his disinterest in running for another term.
This has paved way for major opposition parties, each having their own ideology, to try their hand in forming the next Government. Though the French politics has seen many ups and downs, what makes it unique is the rise of Marine Le Pen.
[su_pullquote]According to Ms Pen, the individual countries of Europe should oppose the transfer of their own sovereignty to the European Union and let the people decide for themselves[/su_pullquote]
Ms Le Pen is the president of National Front (FN), a French national-conservative party. She is one of the loudest voices of anti-EU sentiments in France. According to Ms Pen, the individual countries of Europe should oppose the transfer of their own sovereignty to the European Union and let the people decide for themselves. In fact, many have criticised her appreciation of Mr Nigel Farage for his anti-EU stand which led to Britain’s exit from the European Union.
Just like Mr Donald Trump, she also blames radical Islamic fundamentalism as the basis for the rise of terrorism across the globe. With France being one of the victims of recent terrorist attacks, her views have gained an immense amount of support throughout the country.
If France chooses Ms Le Pen as the next president, not only will it be a big blow to the European bloc but will also boost the nationalist views in other parts of the continent.
Populism in western world
[su_pullquote align=”right”]It is the political theory which suggests that the hard- working majority is usually undermined and exploited by a small elite section of the population[/su_pullquote]
The inadvertent rise of nationalistic and anti-establishment views across the world can be understood through the term “Populism”. It is the political theory which suggests that the hard-working majority is usually undermined and exploited by a small elite section of the population. And it is this populism that ignites the average citizen against the elite minority, which may be an immigrant or a class of billionaires depending upon the situation of the region. Today, such anti-establishment sentiment is pervasive around the world leading to the rise of populist leaders who usually follow the rightist ideology.
Starting from Britain’s exit from the European Union, also known as Brexit, to the latest US elections which saw the rise of Donald Trump to the highest office on the land, the populist leaders have been more or less successful in tapping the frustrations of the people. As with other European countries, France is also seeing a wave of anti-establishment sentiments following the huge inflow of refugees due to the crisis in Syria. And Ms Le Pen is leaving no stone unturned in using these sentiments in her quest for power.
The status quo
The French election as it stands today is believed to be a three-way battle between the Republicans, the National Front and the newly formed En Marche (“Forward”).
The republicans are usually considered as right-leaning conservatives in French political establishment. On the other hand, the National Front is considered nationalist and right-wing populist.
Ms Le Pen has seen a tremendous increase in her popularity especially after the success of similar movements in other parts of the world. Considering the latest opinion polls, none of the major parties is expected to form a majority. Though a marginal win for Ms Le Pen is expected in the first round of voting against Republican party’s Franc?ois Fillon, the next three months would determine who secures a win in the final round to become the next President of France.
Featured Image Source: Wired
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