Another European Political Earthquake


By Jason Michael


Marine Le Pen’s bid for the French presidency is only just getting off the ground. Month on month her numbers have increased in the polls, and now she is worrying the pillars of Sarkozy. The conditions are about right for another political earthquake.

Brexit and the “shock” election of Donald Trump underlined the seismic shift to the right in UK and US politics, but the results in Britain and the United States do not reflect isolated trends. The growing anxiety over migration and the fear of internationalised Islamic extremism have been exploited by the populist political right, and this ploy has worked. Centrist political establishments, themselves pulled to the right, and an already right-wing popular media have played right into its hands, and the result has been the rise of the far right across the whole of Europe and North America. All the factors that led to Brexit and Trump are still in play elsewhere in Europe.


Polls in France are showing that the Front National leader, Marine Le Pen, has taken a massive lead on Nicolas Sarkozy – another sign that the earthquake that brought Britain to Brexit is a long way from being over. Under the surface of the popular rhetoric during the European referendum campaign in the UK was the same old anti-immigrant prejudice, this time fused with more extreme Islamophobia and ramped up fears over terrorism. The populist rumour mill in England proved to have the power to overturn the establishment consensus, but England has only ever been exposed to a fraction of the Islamophobia and right-wing fearmongering that have been at large in France over the past decade.

As we consider the potential outcome of the April-May 2017 French presidential election we must also remember that France is still in a state of emergency, a heightened level of state security that is feeding into the fear of immigrants and terrorism. Since the Paris attacks on 13 November 2015 the state of emergency has been extended three times by the French government, with fears now being voiced by civil liberties groups that this may become a permanent security settlement in the country. States of exception such as this – powers transcending the normal running of the law – are, as we learn from thinkers the likes of Carl Schmitt, the infractions upon democracy that lead to its eventual collapse.

It is into this political and securitised environment that Le Pen is leading her campaign for the presidency, and the parallels with the Brexit and Trump campaigns are glaring. In both cases, as it is with Le Pen at present, the media and the political pundits downplayed their chances of success. In both Britain and the United States the polls used by the media were highly selective, showing certain defeat for the right. Over the course of the past year Marine Le Pen has gained in the polls and now stands a real chance of winning, and a victory in France for the Front National will be yet another massive blow to the stability of Europe.


Inside France’s biggest political youth movement: the National Front


Author: Jason Michael (@Jeggit)

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