ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: « Le vote FN est aussi un vote de souffrance sociale. »
by Lionel Decottignies
Translated Thursday 25 March 2010, by Gene Zbikowskiand reviewed by
An interview with Jean-Yves Camus, a political scientist specialized in the far right.
How do you interpret the National Front’s election score?
Jean-Yves Camus: In strict numeric terms, 12% is far higher than the score of the Modem, the Front de Gauche, or the Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste, and is slightly lower than that of Europe Ecologie. That makes it the fourth-largest political force. So it still has the power to make itself a political nuisance. It had a real effect on the second round of the regional elections because the UMP does not have a large back-up pool of voters to draw on.
Do the results come as a real surprise ?
Jean-Yves Camus: The opinion polls put the National Front at around 10%, and rather less than more, between 9 and 10%. With 12%, it is an undeniable success in terms of the raw results. Now, this success will not be turned into political power. As usual, the National Front remains in its splendid isolation, it doesn’t want to dialogue with anyone and no one wants to form an alliance with it. Once again, it is forced to put on the costume of the party basher, which fits it to a T. Moreover, most political authorities, and notably right-wing ones, want to avoid discussing the National Front, as if it was impossible to draw any conclusions from an election in which 50% of the voters did not participate. But the massive abstention rate is in itself a sanction. You can see it as an additional sign of mistrust. To return to the National Front voters, for their part, they are mobilized. Marine Le Pen kept explaining to them that they had to go and vote. She feared that most of the people who wanted to sanction the government at the polls would just stay home. Today, those who are disappointed by Le Pen-ism and Sarkozy-ism don’t even vote any more. That is a signal that has to be seen, all the same.
What are the factors that favored the National Front?
Jean-Yves Camus: The debate on national identity, with the tone that it was given, the systematic identification of the definition of national identity with the problematic of immigration – this incontestably shifted the themes of the election campaign to the National Front side of the political spectrum. You can also see that, for the north-eastern quarter of France, the National Front vote is also an expression of social suffering, a vote that has a particular sociological structure. These are regions with low-income classes that have taken the full brunt of off-shoring and deindustrialization. Today, the protest vote is a vote for the National Front. It’s no accident if the National Front’s best score is that of Marine Le Pen in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region, with very high scores in the mining region, 40% in Hénin-Beaumont. Moreover, there is a growing gap between the political discourse of the governing majority and the way that the French, on the ground, see their daily lives. They only see one thing: that unemployment is growing. There is only one element of satisfaction regarding that: the left has become audible again.