Redundant Far-Right?

23 10 2007

Photo: Jean-Marie Le Pen campaining in April 2007.

Looking back at the national elections in Poland of two days ago, I remember a commentary I wrote for the summer issue of The Vienna Review (July/August 2007, Vol. 5, No. 6, p. 30) with reference to the French Parliamentary Elections. The reader might remember that after the clear victory of the Nicolas Sarkozy in the Presidential Elections of May 2007, political commentators expected a fulminating victory of Sarkozy’s conservative Union pour un movement populaire (UMP).

Jun. 17, however, the second round of the elections to the National Assembly, had two surprises: Firstly, the UMP lost 46 seats, instead of the expected gains of a possible 3/4 majority, nevertheless securing a comfortable majority in support of the President. Secondly, Jean-Marie Le Pen’s right extreme Front National missed, for the first time in the party’s 35-year history, the 5% threshold; thus it did not gain any parliamentary seats, and the party consequently was threatened with bankruptcy, because there was no refund of campaign expenses.

In conclusion, that is what I had to say then: “Le Pen, who became second in the presidential elections of 2002 against Jacques Chirac, stood no chance of repeating his success this time in April 2007. With Sarkozy, France elected a president who clearly was fishing for votes in the far-right electorate by playing tough as interior Minister.” – I should add here that Sarkozy was himself an immigrant child, and one wonders how his family would have felt when they sought refuge in France today? You might want to follow up an interesting article in The New York Times of May 5, 2007 – just days ahead of the final round of the presidential elections.

 

“Although Le Pen urged his supporters to abstain for the second round in the presidential elections, his voters evidently supported Sarkozy, and they did so on Jun. 17. Sarkozy, unlike his predecessors Mitterand and Chirac, “thanked” his opponent on Jun. 20 by inviting Le Pen into the Elysee for talks.”

The question I posed then, and I pose it here again in case of Poland: Did the right extremist parties not gain any parliamentary seats because their policies were redundant? Or is it rather the case, as I would suggest once again, that their policies have entered mainstream conservative thinking in Europe, and consequently, did their electorate move with them closer to the center?

When we think of the Polish general elections: Any democrat will be relieved that the League of Polish Families Party and the populist, rural-based Self Defence Party are not represented in parliament again. But is it not more concerning that they are not? The Kaczynski’s have moved very far to the right, and therefore enforced dangerous anti-democratic tendencies, at times racist and xenophobic policies, into the political mainstream and into general acceptance. How to deal with the far-right opens a controversial, though necessary political debate. So, please send me your postings, and comments.

This is an excerpt, the full article was published in November 2007 in The Vienna Review.

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