Saturday, March 03, 2007

French Election : The "Third Man" for President

As we enter the last 50 days before the two ballot rounds of the French presidential elections, the former "third man," Jean-Marie Le Pen, is making his bid to rise once again as a serious contender for the presidency. He is currently in fourth place in the polls, at around 12 percent, although he is struggling to receive the requisite 500 signatures from elected officials as required by the constitution.

Le Pen founded the "Front National" in 1972 as the main party of the far-right. Their policy platform strongly advocates immigration control and restrictions. Recently, Le Pen pledged to reintroduce the death penalty to France, just days after the French constitution was amended to outlaw it completely. Le Pen is an extremely conservative candidate campaigning for censorship in arts and in communication and calling for French economic protectionism that veers towards hard-line "Euro-skepticism."

The question is whether Le Pen can pass the first round and upset the balance of the elections. In 2002, Le Pen had been in sight of the presidency when he shocked political observers by making it to the second round. A far-right extremist, Le Pen is sometimes called a neo-fascist. He likes to provoke outrageous situations through inflammatory speeches castigating uncontrolled immigration mixed with anti-Semitic speeches, which he claimed, scandalously, "can be funny." He has been accused of Holocaust denial several times, of xenophobia and historical revisionism, too.

Furthermore, he has made friends and supporters of the anti-Semitic comedian Dieudonne M'Bala M'Bala. One can see albeit the Front National or the far-right extremist party has opened their doors to include some ethnic minorities, they favor an anti-Semitic ideological hard-line policy of hate and exclusion of foreigners and other ethnic minorities.

Le Pen has found a lot of firm support in the provinces among the ordinary people who live near the borders of France; areas where it is easy to conjure up fantasies of an invasion of foreigners. Le Pen has captured a slice of the French electorate all along the terrestrial borders from the north near Lille, to the east and downward into the south of France. On the other hand, Le Pen already seems to have been defeated by the upsetting popularity of the new "third man" Francois Bayrou. According to the polls the centrist candidate is quite possibly the future president of France.

The campaigns of favorites Sarkozy and Royal have been bogged down again by new allegations about property scandals. Sarkozy is particularly affected by the allegations. As a matter of fact the French people seem to be disgusted by all the scandals and provocative speeches, and are waiting for something new in the political theater. They want politicians to behave in a more honest and humane way, doing without the usual dirty tricks and attempts to bully their opponents.

Meanwhile in the run up to the April and May ballots, the eyes of the French people will be on the polls and there will be some depressing speculations. The question the French people will face is should they choose Le Pen or Bayrou? It's the first campaign in which the "third man" could really win the presidential challenge, despite the tradition of the "third man" as the loser.

In the former presidential races, the Trotskyist Arlette Laguillier was cast in this hopeless role. Then in 2002, the left-wing and nationalist Jean-Pierre Chevenement was also pigeonholed by the mainstream media as the "third man".

Nevertheless, one must not forget the first round of 2002, when Jean-Marie Le Pen threw a seemingly stronger contender, the socialist candidate Lionel Jospin, out of the political theater for five years.

Demian West

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