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French business leaders and press come out against far right

AFP / Damien Meyer |A picture taken on March 30, 2015 shows graffiti on a Front National campaign poster after the French departmental elections in Hede-Bazouges, western France

The leader of the largest French employers' organisation, newspapers, as well as hundreds of artists have spoken out against voting for the far-right National Front (FN) party in the country’s upcoming regional elections on December 6 and 13.


In an unusual move, Pierre Gattaz, president of the Medef employer organisation, spoke out against the FN in an interview with French daily Le Parisien published on Tuesday, railing against the party’s economic policies.

“I’m not talking about the National Front’s politics, but about their economic programme. And that’s where I say watch out,” Gattaz said, comparing the FN’s policy to that of the far-left.

“It’s not a responsible economic programme," he added. "It’s the exact opposite of what needs to be done to re-launch a country’s economic growth.”

While Medef regularly speak out on economic issues, it usually steers clear of intervening in an election or telling voters who to support.

Polls are showing an unprecedented rise in the FN's popularity this year, against a background of a migrant crisis in Europe and after the Islamic State (IS) group’s attacks that killed 130 people in Paris on November 13. The anti-Europe, anti-euro party has also capitalised on widespread voter discontent over issues such as unemployment and policing ahead of the country’s regional elections.

For the first time ever, the far-right party is projected to win two regions, including Nord-Pas-de-Calais-Picardie in the north and Provence-Alpes-Côte-D'azur in the south, according to the latest poll by pollster BVA. It is also neck-and-neck in the regions of Normandy and Burgundy-Franche-Comté.

‘Why a FN victory worries us’

La Voix du Nord, a popular newspaper based in one of the regions where the FN is strongest and where its leader Marine Le Pen is standing, also took the unusual step for a regional daily of urging its readers not to vote for the FN. It ran a photo of Le Pen on its front page on Monday under the headline, “Why a FN victory worries us” (see image below). Its sister publications, the Courrier Picard and the Nord Éclair, featured similar cover-stories attacking the far-right party.

The move triggered a deluge of reader responses, leading the editorial staff at La Voix du Nord on Wednesday to defend their decision.

“La Voix du Nord is intended to serve the region and its inhabitants. If we think something is detrimental to them, that our fundamental values are under threat, we consider it our duty to say so,” the newspaper wrote in an editorial.

Le Pen, who looks set to win the presidency of the Nord-Pas-de-Calais-Picardie region, a former stronghold of the governing Socialist Party, has dismissed the newspaper’s move as political propaganda.

Artists against the FN

Meanwhile, hundreds of artists have signed an open letter to Le Pen on Facebook stating their unequivocal opposition to the FN.

“We are completely incompatible, and only schemers, traitors and the gullible could believe for a single moment that artistic freedom has any meaning for your party,” the letter read.

“We work and create in France, but here, like elsewhere, artistic freedom is above all openness… no matter the nationality, religion or colour of his or her skin,” it concluded.

The Syndeac, a union representing entertainment businesses, went one step further, publishing an ad in the country’s leading newspapers declaring, “The National Front must not lead a single region in France”.

The union also issued a statement, warning against the FN.

“The National Front represents a longstanding and real danger to our sector and to the fundamental values of our democracy,” the statement read.

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