Half of French say far right ‘not a threat to democracy’
A new study published on Wednesday has found that nearly one-third of French people sympathise with the country’s far-right National Front, a nearly all-time high for the party.
Known for its hardline stance on issues like immigration and Europe, France’s far-right National Front (FN) party has often been marginalised. But it looks as though the times may be changing for the FN after a study published on Wednesday showed that at least one-third of French people agree with the party’s line.
Conducted annually by French polling centre TNS Sofres, the poll found that 32 percent of French people sympathise or identify with the FN’s main ideas – a nearly all-time high for the party.
While the FN’s popularity has steadily climbed since 2008, it saw a significant 14-point surge in 2010. The following year, National Front founder Jean-Marie Le Pen stepped down as party chief, paving the way for his daughter, Marine, to take the reins of France’s leading far-right party.
As her father’s successor, Marine Le Pen has been largely credited with softening the FN’s image, making it more accessible to right-wing voters who may have otherwise supported the country’s conservative UMP party.
In the first round of the 2012 presidential elections, Marine Le Pen gave former president Nicolas Sarkozy a serious run for his money, garnering a surprising 17.9 percent of the vote. Though it was not enough to see Le Pen through to the second round, many in France were shocked by the far-right’s apparent popularity.
“What’s surprising is that there was no fallout following the elections,” Emmanuel Rivière, public opinion director at TNS Sofres, told the AFP news agency, pointing out that the FN’s popularity decreased following previous presidential votes in both 1995 and 2002.
While the study suggested that the French had become more amenable to the FN’s rhetoric, 67 percent of those who participated said that they did not agree with the party’s proposed solutions to issues, and did not see themselves voting for the party in the future. However, the number of people who perceive FN as “a danger to democracy” dipped below the 50 percent mark for the first time, falling at 47 percent.
The only other time the FN enjoyed such popularity was more than two decades ago in 1991.