As France’s media and elite were shocked to find the FN in first place last Sunday night in the first round of regional election results, more astute observers have noticed something interesting.
It appears that some FN voters — at least this time around — come from an unexpected source.
Gavin Mortimer, author of The Men Who Made the SAS: a History of the Long Range Desert Group in WW2, did a bit of investigation and wrote up his findings for The Spectator.
‘How Marine Le Pen is winning over the Muslim vote’ is a fascinating read for the reaction among the mainstream against extremism. This also includes a number of Muslims, particularly the elderly, in left-wing Saint-Denis, scene of the morning-long shoot-out on Wednesday, November 18.
The second round of voting takes place on Sunday, December 13 — one month to the day after the Paris attacks. As I write, it remains to be seen if the FN will actually take control of six regions once ballots are counted.
Mortimer points out that Marine Le Pen has been attempting to cleanse the party of bad history and dubious influences since 2011 to gather newer voters across France. Her most controversial move was to oust her father, founder Jean-Marie, from the party earlier this year. She has also tried to send the message that she is not opposed to Muslims or Islam but, rather, the ‘progressive Islamisation of our country’. This opened the way for an appeal to voters ‘of all origins’ — her words — to support the FN at the ballot box.
And so it happened a week ago. Some Muslims are disappointed both with the Socialists, their natural party of affliation, and Les Républicains — LR, formerly the UMP.
Mortimer quoted one voter, Nabila, who told Le Parisien:
She [Marine Le Pen] is not like her father. She’s not 100 percent racist. I’m Muslim but I don’t find it normal that there are so many illegal immigrants coming. The Left, the Right, they’ve never changed anything. So why not her?
Nabila lives in Seine-Saint-Denis. She is not alone in her voting preference.
Jean-Louis Merle, a community worker there, told Le Parisien he thought other Muslim residents were being facetious when they expressed support for the FN:
Ten years ago these type of comments would have been unimaginable.
Indeed. But, Mortimer tells us, the same phenomenon occurred in a district of Marseille with a large North African population and many urban problems. Naturally Socialist voters? Not anymore, at least for now. The FN won there, too.
The Socialists are scratching their heads wondering what happened. One of their MPs, Malek Boutih, whose family is from Algeria, inadvertently made himself a party outcast by revealing the truth about their mistakes since 2012.
First among them was the 2013 legalisation of same-sex marriage.
One does wonder whether that has played a role in increasing extremism. It is difficult to tell, as each country’s laws have a different effect on its citizens. On the other hand, one could, no doubt, make the case that, if nothing has happened in other countries as a result of similar legislation, why France?
Mortimer says that Boutih found law and order — or the lack of it — to be another factor.
By now, Marseille, the Paris suburbs and other conurbations have an ageing Muslim population in addition to all the ‘youths’ one reads about in the media. These people, as well as other law-abiding residents, want something done so they can walk the streets in safety. They didn’t move to France over the past few decades to fear for their lives. In fact, that was what some were escaping.
Who speaks for them now? Apparently not the Socialists.
The FN may not be able to do much about repealing same-sex marriage at the regional level. But they can do something about remedying no-go areas for the police. For some new FN voters, that will do nicely — as would local controls on further immigration, if that is possible.
Whatever the result, the FN will be looking ahead to 2017 — as will many voters.